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A YouTube star was accused of raping her best friend. The response reveals a double standard.

Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers. 

Encouraged by the #metoo movement, a woman named Timothy Heller gained the courage to take to Twitter to share her story of assault. The person she accused caused a furor.

Heller named her former best friend, YouTube pop star Melanie Martinez, as her abuser – claiming that in 2015, the now 22-year-old singer inflicted a prolonged, manipulative and horrific sexual assault against her.

Martinez, whose music videos have garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube, has a loyal army of supporters. Their response was swift. Many took Heller at her word.

#MelanieMartinezIsOverParty began trending on Twitter, as legions of formerly loyal fans began breaking their Melanie Martinez records in half, or destroying the candy-coloured merchandise that has made Martinez a trendsetter among teens and tweens.

melanie martinez accused of rape
Timothy Heller (left) has accused YouTube pop star Melanie Martinez (left) of sexual assault.

But many others asked the same question of Heller - as her alleged attacker was also female and of smaller stature, presumably she wasn't in physical danger, so why didn't she just walk away?

Timothy's description of the alleged attack is harrowing. She claims Martinez, whom she loved and trusted, wore her down psychologically for days, begging to touch her arm, and then her breasts, bartering for each interaction, before assaulting her with a sex toy.

Didn’t mean to pull such a look today but ¯_(ツ)_/¯

A post shared by Tim♡thy (@timothyheller) on

Timothy writes that Martinez performed, “oral sex on me and then I was penetrated with a sex toy without being asked. She knew I didn't want to, I made that clear". Heller added that she was, “completely not reciprocating.”

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As soon as Heller's claims entered the news cycle, many responses to the accusation veered towards blaming Heller for not simply removing herself from the situation.

While such comments are all too common when it comes to sexual assault allegations in general, had Martinez been a man, the power dynamic of the situation she claims occurred - one in which Heller describes being systematically stripped of her autonomy -  would be vastly more clear.

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If Martinez had been male, would the scene look different? And if so, why is sexual assault committed by a woman seen as more benign, easier to escape, something an alleged victim could simply stroll away from, no matter how persistent the coercion, how flagrant the manipulation or how unbalanced the power structure between the two women?

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Heller has asked those questions of herself, telling Newsweek: "I think I was invalidating my own experience for so long because she's not a man. Plus, she was my friend, and I sat with what happened in silence because I didn't want to be malicious."

Heller understood, implicitly, how her accusation may be viewed. She wrote: “I beg you to imagine her role in this being a man. Girls can rape girls. Best friends can rape best friends. Friendships does not equal consent. Silence doesn't equal consent. I wish it wasn't so hard for me to convince myself of these things,” she added.

Swiftly after it was made, Martinez took to Twitter to strongly deny Heller's accusation, claiming her friend "never said no".

Martinez wrote: “I am horrified and saddened by the statements and story told tonight Timothy Heller. She never said no to what we chose to do together. And although we parted ways, I am sending her love and light always.”

☁️☁️☁️☁️

A post shared by Melanie Martinez (@littlebodybigheart) on

In her account, Heller describes saying no, many, many times, prior to the alleged assault. She also describes giving in, freezing up, and enduring the alleged attack.

She wrote: "The bottom line that I need to always remind myself is that: I said no. For TWO NIGHTS STRAIGHT. It doesn't matter that I didn't resist during the action. I had been broken down. She knew I didn't want to, I made that clear."

LISTEN: We deep dive on some of the more unethical things to happen on YouTube, on our podcast for imperfect parents. 

Heller also describes the shock of allegedly being "molested" by a person she loved, and disbelief that this person she loved could hurt her. Heller, also a singer, describes being the victim of someone who could make or break her own budding career.

Speaking to The Fresh Committe, Heller notes that, even if she had said nothing, an absence of a "no" doesn't equal a "yes". She says: "I hope people get a clearer idea on what consent is, and while I did say no, NOT saying no does not equal consent".

Since Heller made her story public, another woman has claimed that she was coerced into sex by Martinez. "She begged me over and over to sleep with her and I finally gave in. She wore me down," the woman Tweeted in response to Heller.

For Heller, coming forward took immense courage, but she hopes to ignite discussion.

"I hope that my experience can be a story that starts a conversation about Women on Women abuse," Heller told The Fresh Committee. “I hope that people realize that anyone can abuse anyone, regardless of gender. That if you were assaulted, even by a woman, your experience is valid.”

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