Austin Rick Talks Kirt Webster Allegations: Why He Spoke Up, What He Hopes to Achieve
In a new interview, Austin Rick -- the ex-country singer who has accused PR executive Kirt Webster of sexually molesting and abusing him in the late 2000s -- speaks out about his decision to come forward. To Taste of Country, the former artist explains why he chose to speak out now, and what he wants to achieve by doing so.
"I'm hoping that this is what it was supposed to boil down to, and I'm hoping to find some peace and some closure to this entire storyline," Rick says. "These things happened to me, I think they've happened to other people, and I want to stop them."
In a Nashville Scene story published on Tuesday (Oct. 31), Rick accused Webster of sexually molesting and abusing him, paying Rick to keep quiet and threatening to sabotage Rick's career if he didn't. In a statement via a spokesperson, Webster denies Rick's claims, noting that Webster, "as a single adult ... has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual ... includ[ing] a brief relationship with Mr. Rick."
"It didn't surprise me at all," Rick tells Taste of Country of Webster's statement. "I know when you have that much money and power ... not everyone, but Kirt has the mindset that he can sweep anything he wants right under the rug. To call me an opportunist and a liar, that's just typical Kirt to me."
Rick says he contacted Webster PR's employees on Tuesday via email, sharing his story before it was published in the Scene; however, he has not received any responses. He says that the #MeToo campaign on social media, which encouraged victims of sexual assault and harassment to speak out, encouraged him to share his story now.
"My therapists thought that [coming forward] would be a great idea," Rick adds, noting that he's suffered mental and emotional issues because of what he claims Webster did to him. "They thought that I would be able to take some solace in this."
Rick admits that he has seen and heard comments calling him opportunistic and wondering why he didn't leave when situations arose with Webster. He says that he's not going to let people victim-blame him.
"When you're in a situation like that, you have to do what you have to do to get out of there and survive," he says. "When shame, guilt, anger and fear all combine, there's no telling what a human brain is going to do."
In the days since Rick's allegations against Webster were made public, another artist and a number of former Webster PR staff members have come forward with their own allegations; although Rick cannot press criminal charges due to a statute of limitations, others who have made allegations could, and he could still file a civil lawsuit. On Wednesday (Nov. 1), Webster PR announced Webster's departure from the company "to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him." At that time, it was announced that the company would re-brand as Westby PR, and that "[t]he company's work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt's longstanding colleague;" however, a number of clients have since severed ties with the firm.