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) — Graffiti popping up all over Austin, Texas, 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.” Nexstar’s KXAN found it written in more than half a dozen different spots around the city, including on a Lime bicycle, under bridges, on building walls and at Lady Bird Lake.
It’s unclear how long the graffiti has been up, who’s behind it, or what message is intended to be conveyed.
The meaning behind the message — and whether it’s appropriate — is being debated online after news of the graffiti was posted to Reddit this month. Near the University of Texas, new signs are pushing back, begging the graffiti artist to “stop.”
“You are not empowering victims,” reads one flyer stapled to telephone poles in West Campus. “You are just reminding people of the worst experience in their lives. You are not promoting healing. 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 that messages like the one popping up around Austin may be triggering, even if it feels empowering and therapeutic for the graffiti artist.
“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.”
The graffiti 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.
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.”