In his memoir, Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler recalled the time he “almost took a teen bride” in the 1970s. “[H]er parents fell in love with me, signed a paper over for me to have custody, so I wouldn’t get arrested if I took her out of state. I took her on tour with me,” Tyler wrote. And while the 1970s featured a lot of behavior by rock stars that now comes off as unsettling, having custody of the person you’re nominally in a relationship with is especially so.
Now, Julia Holcomb, the woman who Tyler referred to in the above passage, has filed a lawsuit against him in a California court, alleging that Tyler sexually abused her over a period of several years beginning when she was 16 and Tyler was 25.
Rolling Stone has more details about the lawsuit, and notes that Tyler isn’t directly named in the lawsuit — but that details line up with what Tyler has said in previous interviews and his memoir. In the suit, Holcomb asserts that Tyler “coerced and persuaded Plaintiff into believing this was a ‘romantic love affair.’”
The lawsuit goes on to state that Tyler also pledged to provide for Holcomb’s education or medical needs. The lawsuit states that Tyler “did not meaningfully follow through on these promises and instead continued to travel with, assault and provide alcohol and drugs to Plaintiff.”
The timing of the lawsuit has to do with an extension through year’s end of the Child Victims Act in California, allowing people over the age of 40 to file suits about abuse they experienced as children. Holcomb’s suit is far from the only one being filed this week.
Tyler’s own recollections from his memoir also look pretty damning in retrospect. The Rolling Stone article cites one passage in particular: “She was sixteen, she knew how to nasty, and there wasn’t a hair on it.”
As for this specific case, the role that power imbalances can play in cases involving sexual misconduct is a subject that’s come to the foreground more and more lately, most recently in the numerous accusations surrounding Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. And, to state the obvious in the case of Holcomb and Tyler — it’s hard to argue that something is a consensual relationship when one party is literally the legal guardian of the other.
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