Neighbors speak up about sexual abuse allegations at local music venue

Advocates: More than a dozen women have claims against Rock Island Supper Club

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Allegations of sexual assault have some people in Rock Island on edge. 

The controversy surrounds the Rock Island Supper Club, a non-profit event venue in Downtown Rock Island. 

Local 4 News has been researching sexual allegations against board member Matt Ajishegiri and found they didn't surface over the last week, but last year. 

That's when the Supper Club held an open forum.

Recordings were banned for most of the discussion, but Local 4 News got a copy of the first few minutes in which board members speak up.

And now, nine months later, some neighbors say this message goes beyond one person or one group.

"We refuse to ignore the issue and move on and we also refuse to ostracize our friend. So we're trying to find a compromise and understanding," a board member says during the forum in May 2018. 

"No victim is going to show up there and face their freaking abuser," recalls a local artist who attended that forum.  

She says organizers admitted then there was a problem. 

"Because this has happened before, we do not want this to continue. We are sorry for not dealing with it the correct way," a board member says in the recording. 

But the artist says nothing was done about allegations of sexual assualt and harassment against board member Ajishegiri, until the last week.

Justice Brunk says people started bullying two friends for coming forward on social media, so she decided to post stories on behalf of accusers who wanted to stay anonymous. 

In about a week, she's shared stories from more than a dozen women who say Ajishegiri violated them. 

"From touching them in their sleep to begging them online for nudes," Brunk says. 

Last week, organizers announced Ajishegiri would be stepping down from the board and that the venue would be closed until further notice. 

"There gets to be a point where you have to say, apply a little bit of pressure here," says 5th ward Alderman Dylan Parker.  

Parker has also requested rock island's liquor commission to revoke the club's BYOB license. 

"Even though it's a small gesture with the liquor commission, it's something to just say, 'This is affecting the community, please address it, those that have the authority to do so.'" 

Advocates say it was never about the venue.

"It could've been something really great for the community, but the way they've handled things is not OK. They don't deserve to have a place there in our community," says the local artist, who says she stopped performing or attending shows after last year's forum. 

They say the message is about victims knowing their rights and people of authority doing the right thing.  

"It's just not going to be a safe place because none of those people were making it a safe space. It's not just about Matt, it's about everybody, it's about the whole attitude about it," she says.

Rock Island police tell Local 4 News no police reports have been filed, so there is no investigation into these claims right now. 

Advocates say that's because victims oftentimes don't know how to file one, don't have the funds or don't want to go through the trauma of re-telling their stories to police. 

Local 4 News has reached out to Ajishegiri, who declined an interview. 

Other board members have not responded to our requests. 

The venue's Facebook Page has also been taken down as of Monday. 

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