Multiple Black Women Accuse DJ Tim Westwood Of Sexual Misconduct In Harrowing New Documentary

Photo: Phil Lewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images.
Warning: The following contains graphic details which some readers may find upsetting.
“He’s been out here doing f*ckery and he’s been doing it for years,” alleges a voice from a silhouetted figure on BBC Three’s Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power, a new documentary charting decades of sexual misconduct allegations concerning ex-BBC Radio One DJ Tim Westwood. It’s one of six testimonies featured in the 30-minute film accusing the famed British DJ of sexual assault, groping and predatory behaviour from as early as 1992 until as recently as 2017. While the alleged victims’ identities have been protected, they are all Black women and recall incidents that happened in their late teens and early 20s. Westwood, 64, has since denied all the allegations. As the controversy reaches fever pitch online and within the Black community — echoing concerns that the incidents were widely known for years — the documentary has fuelled conversations about how power, privilege and racial discrimination allowed these allegations to fall through the cracks. 
Advertisement
The documentary, which aired on Tuesday evening, begins with a montage of Westwood’s huge hip-hop affiliations, from a young Will Smith to Jay Z. The DJ is described by one of his accusers as someone who could “make and break” your career in the Black music industry “despite being a white man”.
Tim Westwood – the white, middle-class son of a bishop – has been embedded in the Black music scene since the ‘80s, growing to become Britain’s trusted gatekeeper of hip-hop music. As a BBC Radio 1 DJ for more than two decades he had both access to and kudos from hip-hop's biggest stars, all the while showboating as the 'Big Dawg' with his trademark oversized apparel and affected Blaccent (rumoured to be the inspiration for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G). Westwood’s career as a DJ took him to students' unions across the country and by the late 2000s he was flogging Durex condoms to teens and students under the tagline: "Strap it up before you slap it up." Armed with multiple MOBO awards for Best DJ and multiple co-signs from Black musicians in the UK and US, the scandal has shone a light on how Westwood’s 'Black pass' allowed him to allegedly abuse young, Black women and continue to have a fruitful career to this day. 
With pressure continually being applied to Westwood and the corporations he has worked for, his forthcoming DJ sets at the Rum Rum nightclub in Birmingham and Butlin's in Bognor Regis have been cancelled and he has stepped down from his Capital Xtra radio show “until further notice”. Here’s what has happened so far:
Advertisement

What are the allegations against DJ Tim Westwood?

In a joint investigation by The Guardian and the BBC, released on Tuesday 26th April, at least seven women claim that the DJ “misused his position in the music industry to take advantage of them”. As detailed in Tim Westwood: Abuse Of Power, “three of the women who have bravely come forward accused the DJ of opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour when they met him to discuss their music or were invited to London to do work experience with him at the BBC. They were 17, 19 and 20 at the time.”
In one of the disturbing accounts, one of the victims, who was 19 at the time of Westwood’s alleged assault, described how the DJ exposed himself in front of her after he drove her to his London home. At the time, Westwood allegedly promised to listen to the budding songwriter’s music.
“I didn’t actually see him undo his trousers,” she told The Guardian and BBC. “What alerted me to the fact that he was exposing himself was the fact that he actually tapped me to turn around to look. I’ve looked and I’ve seen and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, oh no, like, oh my God’,” she said.
As described in both the documentary and the extensive report, Westwood got himself a drink, returned to the room naked and initiated sex.
“That’s when I noticed that he’s got a condom and he’s removed it (from the packet) and started putting it on,” she said. “I remember the packet because they had this slogan on it. They had his face on the other side… I remember him throwing it down. I remember the fact that it was yellow. Like, I remember that very vividly because I remember that was kind of when my brain also started to shut down. Per the BBC and Guardian report, although she did not vocalise her displeasure, she was “frozen”, “scared” and “couldn’t move”.
Advertisement
Another three women in their late teens or early 20s met Westwood at club nights when he DJ’d, according to the BBC’s synopsis. “The women, who have never spoken, say that as they posed for a photo with the DJ he put his hand inside their top, down their shorts or up their skirt, leaving them shocked and shaken.”
Westwood has vehemently denied the allegations.

Have there been investigations into Tim Westwood's conduct before?

Young Black women, and some Black British figures within the music industry, have been calling out Tim Westwood’s alleged behaviour for some time. By 2020, conversations about alleged incidents began to show up on social media when the #survivingTimWestwood hashtag trended on Twitter. The same year, Westwood issued a statement to Mail Online, claiming: "I can categorically say that I have never had an inappropriate relationship with anyone under the age of 18. I am aware of attempts by anonymous sources to make fabricated allegations online. I can confirm that such allegations are false and without any foundation."
The Tim Westwood: Abuse Of Power documentary is the first time that the allegations against the DJ have been explored on this scale. None of the women went to the police with their stories and all communicated to the publications that they felt they wouldn’t be believed if they came forward. 
Amid the investigations, Westwood’s spokesperson released this statement to the press: "Tim Westwood strongly denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour. In a career that has spanned 40 years, there have never been any complaints made against him officially or unofficially. Tim Westwood strongly rejects all allegations of wrongdoing."
Advertisement

What has the BBC said about the Tim Westwood allegations?

Tim Westwood has fronted rap and hip-hop shows on BBC Radio 1 and later BBC 1Xtra since the early ‘90s and the broadcaster has been pressed to respond to the allegations about its former star presenter. Following the release of the BBC documentary, the BBC stressed in a statement that it "is against all forms of inappropriate behaviour and we are shocked to hear of these allegations. The BBC has strict codes of conduct for all those engaged by the BBC, including on-air presenters."
Commenting on the documentary, BBC’s Director General Tim Davie said on Wednesday that the women’s testimonies were "shocking" and "appalling" but that he had seen "no evidence of complaints" against Tim Westwood in the past.
"I credit the BBC and Guardian teams for going after the story. I think that that’s absolutely what we should be doing," said Davie. "I’ve seen no evidence of complaints. I’ve asked and we looked at our records and we’ve seen no evidence."
Also on Wednesday Tim Westwood’s most recent employer, Global Radio, parent company of Capital Xtra, issued a statement confirming that the DJ has "stepped down from his show until further notice".

What about the Black women at the centre of the documentary?

In the moments after the documentary aired, feelings were visceral among Black commentators, who have been hoping for a thorough investigation into the allegations for some time. For many, Tim Westwood’s alleged conduct is another example of the adultification of Black girls — especially dark-skinned girls who, without an assumed innocence, aren’t always taken seriously when it comes to matters of sexual abuse and violence. As explained in the Guardian investigation: "The women, who are all Black …feared their accounts would not be taken seriously – and that racial discrimination would also lead people to minimise, dismiss or ignore their claims."
Advertisement
In the documentary, one of the women painted a harrowing picture of a predator who understood just how vulnerable young, Black women are. "He happens to have a certain type of person who he targets," says a voice near the end of the film. "The victims are Black females… we all know he’s got a bit of taste for darker skinned women who no one else finds attractive, that’s how society is viewing it… it’s assumed there is something you could gain from it, publicity, notoriety, fame… people don’t see fragility in Black women."
For the Black women at the centre of the documentary, who are now in their 30s and 40s, the decision to speak out meant grappling with a long-held shame and exposing their "trauma scar". Adding weight to allegations that have been hiding in plain sight is not a decision that has come lightly. As one of the reported victims bravely states: "Someone taking advantage of my naivety and lack of confidence isn’t something that I should have to carry with shame."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). 

More from Global News

R29 Original Series

Advertisement