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The YouTube Sexual Abuse Scandal refer to a series of accusations of sexual misconducts made against several YouTube musicians who were or are signed to the Don’t Forget To Be Awesome (DFTBA) Records, a digital music label launched by the Vlogbrothers for a group of independent recording artists on YouTube, followed by a wave of abuse allegations directed at several YouTube pranksters.
Mike Lombardo’s Arrest
On February 12th, 2012, The Smoking Gun reported F.B.I agents has seized Mike Lombardo’s computers after several teenagers came forward saying they had exchanged sexually explicit photos with the DFTBA-signed artist. In July 2012, Lombardo was arrested on charges of soliciting explicit photos from minors and subsequently sentenced to five years in federal prison on the charge of possessing child pornography on February 28th, 2014. Shortly after news of the FBI investigation on Lombardo broke, Hank Green issued a statement on behalf of himself, his brother John, and DFTBA records on his Tumblr blog on February 18th, 2012, explaining he had taken down Lombardo’s page from the label’s official website.
Allegations Against Tom Milsom
On March 11th, 2014, Tumblr user Olga wrote a blog post in which she accused YouTube musician Tom Milsom of emotionally abusing and manipulating her during the course of their relationship. On March 13th, Olga posted another update with more details about her accusations, including their age difference at the time they had first met. The relationship began when she was 15 years old and he was 21.
Allegations Against Alex Day
On March 12th, an anonymous Tumblr blog post accused yet another DFTBA artist Alex Day of pressuring her into a sexual relationship with him. In the following days, additional allegations of misconduct were made against Day by both anonymous and self-claimed victims. That same day, Day addressed the allegations on his Tumblr blog in a post titled “On Mistakes.” In it he states:
“Until yesterday, I thought that I had had only appropriate, though occasionally manipulative relationships with women. However, the model of consent that I followed, not that I specifically thought about it at the time – was that only “no” meant “no.” That is not what consent is.The result of that belief that ‘only no means no’, is that I spent a long part of my life doing shitty things to good people and barely ever realising or acknowledging that I was doing the shitty things.”
Hank Green’s Response
Green addressed the allegations against Milsom in a post on his Tumblr in which he explained he was sad and angry over the revelation Milsom had had a relationship with a minor. Green posted a response to the allegations regarding Milsom and Day on March 14th, 2014. In his post titled “WTF Is Going On” he explains:
“This probably goes without saying but I am both furious and saddened that people in my community would have these manipulative, unhealthy, and even abusive relationships. I do not know all of the details of these relationships, nor do I believe it is my place to know, but I have no doubt that Alex and Tom took advantage of people and I am so tired of being angry that now I’m just sad.”
The same day he uploaded a video to the Vlogbrothers channel titled “Sexual Abuse, Consent, and Culture” which explored those issues. As of March 17th, the video has gained more than 310,000 views.
Sam Pepper’s Prank Scandal
On September 20th, 2014, Pepper posted a video, which was removed two days later by YouTube, titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch” which featured Pepper touching women’s butt’s with a fake hand (shown below).
On September 21st, YouTuber Laci Green published an open letter to Pepper on her Tumblr blog. A bolded section of the letter reads:
“We are deeply disturbed by this trend and would like to ask you, from one creator to another, to please stop. Please stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street for views. Please stop physically restraining them and pressuring them to be sexual when they are uncomfortable. Please show some respect for women’s right to their own bodies. While it may seem like harmless fun, a simple prank, or a “social experiment”, these videos encourage millions of young men and women to see this violation as a normal way to interact with women. 1 in 6 young women (real life ones, just like the ones in your video) are sexually assaulted, and sadly, videos like these will only further increase those numbers.
Also on September 21st, Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers sent out a tweet implying Pepper would not be welcome at future VidCons. Within 24 hours the tweet gained over 26,000 favorites and over 13,000 retweets.
On September 22nd, Cosmopolitan published a post titled “YouTubers react to the Sam Pepper video, as it’s removed by actual YouTube” which featured a round-up of tweets against Pepper sent by popular YouTubers and other internet personalities. The same day the controversy was covered by Twitchy.
On September 22nd, Pepper uploaded a second video to YouTube in which a woman pinches several men’s rear ends (shown below). The video was subsequently removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service. That day, Pepper posted a video titled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank – THE REVEAL”, in which he claims both videos were scripted with willing participants and that he was attempting to "highlight the difference between abuse towards a man and abuse towards a woman.” Despite his assertion that it was a prank, Pepper’s channel was taken down that day.
Laci Green’s Allegations
On September 23rd, YouTuber and sex education activist Laci Green tweeted about the reveal, alleging it was just a way for him to cover up his mistake. Further tweets explained she had been receiving threatening e-mails by someone claiming to be Pepper.
On September 24th, an anonymous YouTuber uploaded a video titled "Sam Pepper – The Real “Reveal” in which she describes being sexually assaulted by Pepper without her whole face being shown. Within 48 hours the video gained over 30,000 views.
On September 25th, Green uploaded a video to her YouTube channel titled “Sam Pepper Exposed.” In the video, Green explains that she has spoken with several women who allege Pepper had groped or sexually harassed them. Green went on to name two other male video bloggers she felt were being sexually abusive with their “pranks,” including Kong of Simple Pick-up, and Adrian Van Oyan. Within 24 hours of upload, Green’s video gained 40,000 views.
The Daily Dot – YouTube’s Mike Lombardo arrested for child pornography by FBI