The first big story of 2015 in our world was the alleged sexual harassment of underage girls by Jake McElfresh, aka Front Porch Step. After staying quiet for months, he finally responded on Friday with a statement on his Facebook page. So, let’s have a gander at this shall we? As always, certain parts aren’t quoted here for redundancy’s sake so see the preceding link for the full statement.
“When I was younger, I had a lot of dreams, and my reality was that they were just that….’dreams’, until by the grace of god, someone saw me playing my music and made my dreams my new reality. My life was about to change in ways I couldn’t comprehend for better and for worse. Growing up wasn’t easy. I lacked a lot of self-confidence and had body image issues, things that aren’t just specific to women or girls. I didn’t have a solid family foundation, I didn’t have a lot of friends, at times I felt socially alone, and I certainly wasn’t much of a ladies man.”
You might be able to guess the tone of this statement by that paragraph, and you’re probably right. And yeah, we all have our trials and there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s part of growing up. So then…
“All of a sudden, I gained some confidence. My music was making people happy, I had a group of online ‘friends’ who felt the same feelings as me – I wasn’t alone anymore and for the first time I started to feel like I mattered. I made it a point to always be available to my fans, they are the reason I was now playing shows for a live audience. I was receiving messages from all over the world, from people who felt like me. It was nice to know in the world of the Internet – I could never be alone again. Soon, all of a sudden the guy that thinks he is the ugliest dude in the world is being called ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’ by a bunch of women, people who I had never met in person and frankly I was not prepared for it.
Over the course of time I found myself involved in text based relationships with a handful of women. We met via the Internet and our pseudo-relationship lived online. I liked the new attention and the conversation, I like that these people were interested in me and what I had to say. For a guy who didn’t think he was cool enough or attractive enough to have a girlfriend, l suddenly had a handful of ‘online girlfriends’ one text away. Something that was a blessing and a curse.”
Anytime we experience something new – let alone something as startling and favourable as being a successful musician – it can really throw you for a loop. Sometimes, we react in ways that aren’t the best, and perhaps don’t even make sense. That thought in itself is understandable, but you still have to use your best judgement and really tread as carefully as possible. Jake McElfresh is known for being accessible to his fans, and that really is a good thing: they want to get to know him, and maybe even feel like they do through his music. But, fans are just that: fans, not friends. They certainly can be, but generally they aren’t and there needs to be barriers. In McElfresh’s case, he’s learning that the hard way. It’s okay to be guarded when you have a public job and deal with a lot of people all the time.
“To be honest, this whole thing is so confusing because never once was there physical interaction, only online correspondence between consenting individuals. Are there women that thought they were the only ones I was texting with – yes, but that doesn’t warrant people the ability to bully ANYONE online and make potentially life altering accusations on a forum that spreads like wildfire, (which I am learning is an epidemic all on its own and a bigger social issue we all need to pay attention to.)”
No one is mad at McElfresh for doing physical things with the girls in question, because they know that’s never been an accusation. But if those screenshots and online accounts from those girls are all true, that’s not good. First, no one – underage or not – deserves to be treated that way. Secondly, being the early twenties dude that he is, talking sexual with people that young is always inappropriate, regardless of whether anything illegal is taking place. Sure they may have been okay with it, but they’re young and impressionable and McElfresh needs to know better. That is what people are upset about, and you can’t exactly find fault in that.
“Am I responsible for my part of the conversations – yes, and for that I have learned a terrible lesson. As for the Allegations, they are just that – allegations and not charges. To be associated with words like child molester, pedophile, and rapist – are disgusting and deplorable and I am neither and NEVER will be. To be lumped in to that category is just gross.”
That’s true: those are very strong words and inappropriate to use in this situation, regardless of how (understandably) upset you are by the whole thing.
“Texting is a two way street. Numbers have to be exchanged, correspondence has to be reciprocated. Any online private conversations that have now become public are not as one sided as they’ve appeared. As a touring singer song writer who had access to just about anything, I was happy. I was content. I never once sought out the attention from fans, but was happy to know that I had an online forum of adoring women who thought I was great. Sexual or otherwise, I only had text interactions with willing participants.”
Texting is indeed a two-way street, but again, YOU Jake McElfresh have to be the adult here and know better. I get wanting to be there for your fans and be nice and such, but all this turned into something very different and wrong. We can’t say whether there was a moment when he thought “hey this is getting out of hand”, but if there was one he should’ve shut it down. Barriers, man. They’re necessary. I’d almost rather there not have been that “wait a second..” moment, because then at least McElfresh could claim ignorance and not be someone who knew it was wrong but rolled with it until he got outed. I guess we’ll never know. The statement ends with this:
“For all the haters, you can keep hating, I will no longer be paying attention to your negative energy. With that said, to any woman who expected me to be your prince charming and found out that I am not perfect, I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I am just getting back into what love most and playing music again, and I hope to see you this summer.”
The statement was honest, you gotta give it that. But, it also was really just excuses and apology-free. I’m not sure whether to commend Jake McElfresh for waiting a while before responding: it definitely allowed time to really think about what he wanted to say and not be reactionary, but sometimes it’s better to immediately address it so things don’t fester and grow. Aside from that almost smart-ass “Prince Charming” comment at the end, McElfresh didn’t apologize to these girls for treating them the way he did. Didn’t apologize for the verbal abuse and for taking advantage of them. They, regardless of how big a role they played in the relationships, deserve a “sorry”. Almost forget the rest of the fans and music industry and others who first heard of Front Porch Step because of this controversy, and just think of them.
Will Jake McElfresh and Front Porch Step ultimately come out of this and prosper? Time heals all wounds, and it will tell. There are no charges, nothing illegal from what we know, just a guy who’s made some bad choices and is dealing with the consequences. At the very least, you gotta hope everyone involved heals and learns from this. We all make mistakes, some are worse than others and we all need to be accountable. I hope Jake McElfresh gets that, because after that statement, a lot of people aren’t too sure he does.