Content material warning: This story mentions sexual assault.
The identical message has appeared on trash cans, mailboxes, electrical packing containers, the partitions of condo buildings and companies throughout UT and West Campus. It reads “Despite the fact that I used to be raped, I’m okay,” in the identical distinctive cursive handwriting.
Because it began showing in the beginning of the semester, these eight phrases have sparked dialogue about sexual assault all through the UT neighborhood, because the graffiti is most outstanding on this space. Some who’ve encountered the graffiti really feel it’s triggering and insensitive — sparking a cleanup challenge to take away the graffiti. Social media posts and Reddit threads have denounced the vandalism, saying the message serves as a continuing reminder to survivors of their very own sexual assault.
Different neighborhood members really feel the graffiti is an nameless survivor’s approach of dealing with their trauma.
“Each of these reactions are actual, comprehensible and legitimate,” stated Juliana Gonzales, senior director of sexual assault and well being companies at Cease Abuse for Everybody. “It’s very legitimate for somebody to make expressing themselves concerning the sexual assault a part of their therapeutic journey. And definitely, we don’t wish to silence that. … The act of expressing oneself as a part of the therapeutic course of after a sexual assault may be very highly effective. (However) on the identical time, not everybody is able to work together with these expressions.”
A retriggering expertise
West Campus resident Julia French had a panic assault after they first noticed the graffiti in January, and was instantly taken again to the second of their sexual assault.
“My first response was smelling my attacker — remembering so vividly,” French stated. “I felt like I used to be within the room once more. And it was simply bizarre as a result of I used to be simply having a phenomenal morning strolling my canine, minding my very own enterprise, and I don’t know — it was actually laborious.”
On this first occasion, French, who’s utilizing an alias to guard their id, stated they have been capable of go house and settle down, however then the message appeared on their electrical field, after which on a brick wall immediately exterior their entrance door, taking over a 6-foot-long area.
That is when French determined to take motion. They put up a flier urging the artist to cease tagging the message, organized a GoFundMe to boost cash for cleansing provides to cowl up the graffiti, made a shared Google Maps to trace it and created a bunch of people that teamed as much as take down the tags.
“I don’t suppose the police should be concerned,” French stated. “I don’t need this particular person punished. I don’t have any hate towards them, ultimately, I simply hate rape. And I really need them to cease.”
The College of Texas Police Division is conscious of the graffiti and is actively investigating the incident, Stephanie Jacksis, UTPD director of communications stated in an e-mail. Due to the energetic investigation, UTPD cannot give any further data, Jacksis stated. Austin police stated it has closed two circumstances that concerned the graffiti.
It isn’t the message itself that’s upsetting to so many survivors, French stated. As a substitute, it’s the message’s fixed reminder of sexual assault and the graffiti’s immense prominence, they stated, which strikes survivors as insensitive.
“I don’t hate it as a message,” French stated. “I’m truly actually blissful for them if that’s true. However to me, there’s simply no must put it in every single place. That’s one thing that you need to write in your private social media, write an article about it, write a weblog put up about it (or) discuss to your mates about it. Put it someplace that if somebody is uncomfortable, they will stroll away from it.”
Almost 15 folks have reached out to French to relay their very own damaging, triggering expertise with the graffiti, which additionally appeared on their properties, flats or buildings round campus.
One particularly putting e-mail, French stated, was from a survivor who noticed the graffiti as they have been strolling house after being sexually assaulted. Tales like these impressed the cleanup motion, French stated.
An preliminary donation of $40 from a pal kicked off the cleanup mission. Nonetheless, French stated the act of eradicating paint from surfaces is tedious and tough, which is why they painted flowers over the graffiti exterior their condo constructing.
French stated condo complexes and managers have eliminated the graffiti from their buildings upon their very own accord, and typically, the variety of graffiti sightings has gone down since its peak in February, when it was practically unimaginable to stroll two blocks in West Campus with out seeing the message.
As of now, there are eight pinned areas on French’s map.
Nonetheless, French stated the cleanup effort feels unending and exhausting.
“I went right down to Pease Park … (and) there’s one on the rocks within the river,” French stated. “That’s my decompression spot. It’s annoying sufficient that it’s on my home, however I am going to take a breather someplace and have a calming day on my hammock, after which I look over, and there it’s.”
French believes the tagger is one particular person because the handwriting is persistently the identical amongst the entire areas. They plan to proceed the cleanup effort.
“I need folks to really feel protected, and which means not being reminded of the worst second of their lives,” French stated.
Survivors who see the graffiti and are triggered by its message can obtain support from on-campus sources comparable to Not On My Campus and Voices In opposition to Violence, which assist prepare educational lodging, join survivors to counselors and supply protected areas for survivors of sexual assault.
The College’s Title IX workplace is one other avenue for scholar survivors who want to pursue a grievance course of or obtain help and companies.
Sexual assault grievances fall beneath Observe A or Observe B throughout the Title IX workplace, stated Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez, College Compliance Companies affiliate vp and Title IX coordinator.
“The distinction is that Observe A are issues that meet all the standards beneath the federal rules for Title IX,” Alicea-Rodruigez stated. “In different phrases, each events are affiliated and it occurred at a College-owned property or College-sponsored occasion. Observe B remains to be any incidents of sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship home violence and stalking, however might occur for instance, off-campus or a complainant that’s not affiliated to the College however the respondent is and so we’d nonetheless handle that.”
For Observe A and B grievances, a listening to committee determines if the respondent receives sanctions. Sanctions for scholar respondents can vary from disciplinary probation to expulsion, Alicea-Rodriguez stated.
From the start of the 2022-2023 college yr to March 31, Title IX acquired 110 formal complaints — however solely 4% of those complaints selected to pursue the grievance course of, Alicea-Rodriguez stated. Thirty-nine p.c of the stories are in search of help and sources, 22% of stories are related with confidential sources on campus and 35% are both duplicate stories or non-Title IX-related issues, that are directed elsewhere.
Within the 2021-2022 college yr, the workplace acquired a complete of 483 complaints, over 85% of these sought solely help and companies, in line with final yr’s report on the Title IX workplace.
Over time, nonetheless, some survivors have felt the Title IX course of doesn’t present enough help and justice for survivors.
English junior Pramika Kadari, occasions chair for Not On My Campus, shared her personal frustrations with Title IX after she went by means of the grievance course of throughout her freshman yr.
“It was simply irritating as a result of, a minimum of once I was there once I was going by means of it, I felt like lots of the communication was irritating,” Kadari stated. “Whoever was deciding the result of my case … they have been uninformed about the way in which that trauma can impression you and what consent means, in order that made me actually mad.”
At Not On My Campus, Kadari is concerned with the peer educator program, which seeks to collect representatives from all campus organizations to tell them about consent and trauma-related to sexual assault. She stated the initiative was initially targeted on Greek Life however has expanded to incorporate numerous different organizations.
‘Survivors have every kind of reactions’
Relating to the graffiti’s message, Kadari stated she doesn’t have a damaging response.
“It looks like a survivor who’s making an attempt to ship a message in a roundabout way that most likely helps them,” Kadari stated. “It appears empowering to them, so it doesn’t appear upsetting to me.”
Gonzales reiterated this sentiment, emphasizing that the graffiti, at its face worth, is a survivor expressing themselves.
She stated her response to the graffiti is totally different from the general public’s as a result of her job is to consider survivors. Each time a survivor walks by means of the door of SAFE, she stated it’s her job to offer them companies and sources as if this have been the case.
“In my expertise, survivors have every kind of reactions … to their very own sexual assault (and) it varies daily,” Gonzales stated. “There’s a fairly broad spectrum. It’s regular for us to see survivors who will not be OK after a sexual assault. And it is usually regular to see survivors who’re OK. And that doesn’t imply that the sexual assault was OK, or that it ought to have occurred, or that it’s OK to do this to somebody.”
In case you’re in search of short-term disaster help, SAFE’s hotline 512-267-7233 is obtainable 24/7, in addition to their textual content line, 737-888-7233. SAFE additionally offers counseling for survivors in Austin. April can also be sexual assault consciousness month, and Voices In opposition to Violence is internet hosting occasions all through the month, together with trauma-informed yoga and wellness labs.