The SAFE Alliance encourages anyone who is a survivor of sexual violence to seek help. You can call their 24-hour hotline at 512-267-SAFE (7233), text 737-888-7233, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4573) for help.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Disturbing graffiti is popping up all over Austin lately with a message that is sparking debate and protest and raising questions about the tactic used to talk about sexual abuse.
The same cursive graffiti message, written in red and blank ink, with similar handwriting reads: “Even though I was raped, I am OK.” The message is one of at least 60 examples KXAN has seen around Austin or seen documented in photographs. The messages are appearing in different spots around the city, including on street signs, a Lime bicycle, under bridges, on building walls and at Lady Bird Lake.
“It’s kind of horrifying to think that anybody thinks that’s a message that’s appropriate in any circumstance,” Annette Buttum said. “It’s disturbing.”
It’s unclear how long the graffiti has been up, who’s behind it, or what message is intended to be sent.
“I certainly support anyone expressing themselves in a non-violent way,” Rane Simons said, offering his prayers and support. “If this is how they feel like that’s how they want to do it, I certainly support that.”
The meaning behind the message and whether it’s appropriate is being debated online after it was posted to Reddit this month. In West Campus, near the University of Texas, the graffiti message is written at least three times on the side of an off-campus student housing building. Nearby, new signs are pushing back begging whoever is behind this to “stop.”
“You are not empowering victims. You are just reminding people of the worst experience in their lives. You are not promoting healing,” flyers stapled to telephone poles read. “You show zero compassion and even less awareness.”
KXAN reached out to an email address listed on the protest signs but did not immediately hear back.
“Our immediate thought is always to the survivors of sexual assault,” said Juliana Gonzales, the senior director of sexual assault and health services with Austin’s SAFE Alliance, a nonprofit that helps victims of abuse.
Gonzales said everyone processes trauma differently but cautions while this may be empowering and therapeutic to someone, it can be triggering to others.
“I think there are some people who look at this as a message of empowerment, of healing, of transitioning out of a very difficult experience and being unafraid to talk about it in public,” said Gonzales. “I think there are others who see this, perhaps, justifying sexual assault saying, ‘after a sexual assault I was OK,’ and therefore if someone is sexually assaulted they should be ‘OK,’ or it’s ‘OK’ to do that.”
This all comes as the number of rape arrests in Austin is on the rise. Austin police made 352 rape arrests in 2022, which is up from 320 the year before, according to APD data.
Advocates said it’s an important topic despite the controversial tactic.
“It’s very hard to know, without more information, where this is coming from, or what the intent is,” said Gonzales. “But, I think it’s really valuable for us as a community to be able to talk about it, right? It does bring the issue of sexual assault to light.”