Melanie Martinez, the platinum-selling pop singer who first became famous from her appearances on The Voice, has been accused of sexual assault. Fellow musician Timothy Heller, who says she was formerly best friends with Martinez, posted a detailed account on Twitter accusing Martinez of molesting her and nonconsensually performing oral sex and penetrating her with a sex toy, even after Heller said no:
In the tweet, Heller wrote that her friendship with Martinez was fraught to begin with, claiming that it was defined by “codependency” and that Martinez wielded “power over” her emotionally first. “Her power over me grew and grew,” Heller wrote, “And I was silenced.”
Heller claimed in her tweet that over the course of a two-night “sleepover,” Martinez pressured her for sex. Initially, Heller claimed to “laugh it off” because “I had a boyfriend,” but on the second night, she claims that Martinez began groping her despite Heller telling her no and pretending to be asleep.
“We never talked about this night again,” wrote Heller. “While it completely messed with my head, there was no way I could have been RAPED by my best friend... Right?” Heller ends the tweet as follows:
I’m not sure how to end this story. I’m terrified of the response I’m going to get. The only reason I do this now is because I’m hoping because of recent events, people will believe me. If you begin to doubt the abuse taking place in this story, I beg you to imagine her role in this being a man. Girls can rape girls. Best friends can rape best friends. Friendship does not equal consent. Silence doesn’t equal consent. I wish it wasn’t so hard for me to convince myself of these things.
In response to these accusations, Martinez released her own statement on Twitter denying Heller’s account of the events, writing that “She never said no to what we chose to do together”:
In the recent wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations, when a surprising number of powerful men are facing punishment for the first time, Heller’s story about Martinez is the first time a prominent woman has been publicly accused. Though women raping other women is less common than men raping women, it does happen, particularly within the context of intimate partner violence in lesbian relationships; a 2010 study by the Center for Disease Control reported that one in eight lesbians, almost half of bisexual women, and one in six heterosexual women have been raped.
As Jezebel EIC Koa Beck wrote in MarieClaire.com last year, the simple act of a woman acknowledging that she was raped by another woman is a hurdle to overcome in itself:
Stephanie Trilling, manager of community awareness and prevention services at the Boston Area Rape Crisis (BARCC), observes that for her queer female clients who have been assaulted by women, the first hurdle is simply understanding the assault as rape. Since this scenario is rarely portrayed in the media or in educational programming, “it can be especially challenging to identify their experience as violence,” she says. “Many people have a difficult time believing that a woman could be capable of inflicting violence on another person.”
In October, a National Crime Victimization Study (as reported by Scientific American) noted that four percent of women who have been raped were assaulted by women, and notes that there are fewer resources for them since the system is proportionally geared towards women who have been raped by men. “Victims of female-perpetrated sexual violence suffer emotional and psychological harm, just like victims of male-perpetrated abuse,” writes SA. “And when professionals fail to take victimization by women seriously, this only compounds victims’ suffering by minimizing the harm they experience.”
Jezebel has reached out to representatives for Martinez and Heller and will update if they respond.
Update, December 11: Martinez has posted an additional comment to her Twitter, thanking her fans and claiming that Heller made “false statements.” She wrote, “Please know that my intentions with everything that I do in my life are always pure and I would never be intimate with someone without their absolute consent.”