The Disturbing Details Of Chrissie Hynde's Experience With The Hells Angels

It's not that the future frontwoman of the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde, didn't know about the Hells Angels' reputation for violence, it's more that she wasn't afraid of them — and she wanted to have some fun. She'd first met some members of the notorious biker gang in Cleveland where they were working security at a rock concert she went to in the late '60s, according to The Daily Mail. She was a teen at the time and went to an after-party with the bikers and the band, and even though the Hells Angels were already known as "a new breed of rebel" who were "... self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior ..." (via The Sun), that night went well for Hynde. 

Hynde grew up in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of conservative parents who forbid her to wear blue jeans (per Vogue). By 1970 she was a student at Kent State University and was there that historical day when the National Guard opened fire on students who were protesting, according to Rolling Stone. But by 1972 she had dropped out, and that's the year she had her second encounter with members of the Hells Angels. This time they would live up to their reputation. 

Hells Angels were known to rape young girls

By the time Hynde ran into some members of the Hells Angels at a jail where she and the gang members were each visiting friends who were incarcerated, the group had already been part of the notorious 1969 Altamont Concert where four people were killed and many more injured while the Hells Angels were in charge of security, according to USA Today. Not to mention the 1971 gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in New York, when eight members of the Hells Angels beat and sexually assaulted the young woman in a store and held the store owner captive for several hours, according to The New York Times

In 1965 Hunter S. Thompson reported that members of the group took a 14 and 15-year-old girl from their dates and gang-raped them near a bonfire on the beach in California, per to The Nation. Another time in 1972 three Hells Angels in the U.K. were convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl. According to Chrissie Hynde, she was also forced to have sex with members of the Hells Angels that year. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Chrissie Hynde shared her story in her memoir

In Chrissie Hynde's 2015 memoir, "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender" she told her story of being forced by members of the Hells Angels to do sex acts in 1972 when she was 21 years old. The Daily Mail reported that when Hynde encountered some members of the Hells Angels at the jail, she was high on Qualudes, a popular sedative at the time. When the bikers invited her to a party, she was all in, though a friend she was with declined, so Hynde went alone.

Yet there was no party. The men took her to their dilapidated clubhouse and she quickly realized "the party was going to be hosted exclusively by yours truly," per what she wrote in the book. The men told her to undress, and when she hesitated, one said if she didn't comply they would beat her so badly she would "make some plastic surgeon rich" (via the Daily Mail). The men assaulted her and threw lit matches at her naked body. One of them drove her home the next morning, patted her on the thigh, and told her she wasn't a "half-bad chic." 

Hynde didn't report the assault, instead, she chalked it up to one of life's experiences and even dated the biker who took her home for a brief time. During that time he shared her with another gang member who was physically abusive toward her. Hynde got out of the situation, but she always blamed herself. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The Pretenders formed years after the assault

Chrissie Hynde would later say never viewed herself as a victim of rape. Throughout the 1970s she drifted around, living in various states and in Mexico, France, and England, where she ended up settling — London has been her home for four decades, according to Rolling Stone. She didn't know she wanted to be in a rock band back then, but she knew she loved rock 'n' roll, and she hung out with musicians, many of who went on to become iconic. Hynde played a little guitar in college, but it all congealed in London, where she ended up putting together the band that became The Pretenders. 

The Pretenders released their debut album in December 1979 with the song "Brass in Pocket," becoming a No. 1 hit in England and making it to the top 10 of the Billboard Top 200, per Dig!. Hynde's experiences with the Hells Angels seemed to be far behind her, but it was certainly never forgotten.

Chrissie Hynde has an unorthodox view of her time with the Hells Angels

In 2015 with the publication of Hynde's "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender," she told the story of what had happened to her at the hands of some of the members of the Hells Angels but was met with public backlash for taking responsibility for the sexual assault. In fact, she never called it rape. Hynde told NPR's David Greene in an interview, "But what I can say is I never said I was raped, and I've never used the word, and it's not in the book." 

Hynde said in her memoir and in subsequent interviews that she felt like she was responsible for putting herself in that shady situation, but she wasn't forced to go with them, telling Greene, " ... You know, no one dragged me into the park in the middle of the night with a gun at my head and forced me to do anything. I went off with these guys of my own volition and, you know, I shouldn't have. I mean, I was stupid to do that, but I did it, so."

According to the Washington Post, Hynde told the Sunday Times, "Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can't f*** about with people, especially people who wear 'I Heart Rape' and 'On Your Knees' badges ... those motorcycle gangs, that's what they do."  

Victim blaming and public outcry

According to Vogue, in the interview with The Sunday Times, Hynde elaborated on her perception of why the Hells Angels took advantage of her, which ignited public outcry as people claimed she was victim-blaming when she said: "If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk, who else's fault can it be? If I'm walking around and I'm very modestly dressed and I'm keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I'd say that's his fault. ... You know, if you don't want to entice a rapist, don't wear high heels so you can't run from him. If you're wearing something that says, 'Come and f*** me,' you'd better be good on your feet."

And though many took offense to Hynde's attitude toward what most see as a violent crime, she maintains that her willingness to use drugs and hang out with bad dudes meant she was not an innocent party in her own sexual assault. Hynde told Greene at NPR, "You know, I was having fun, because I was so stoned. I didn't even care. That's what I was talking about, I was talking about the drugs more than anything, and how f***** up we were. And how it impaired our judgment to the point where it just had gotten off the scale."