Content warning: The following story contains references to rape, sexual violence, coercion, and toxic masculinity, which may be difficult for some readers.
"Move or Die," Molly Mitchell
I met my rapist through the DIY scene in Tucson, Arizona. I was a DJ and operated an independent record store, and he sought me out to create a musical partnership. After he booked me for a number of DJ gigs, we became good friends, and I started helping him with his creative projects.
In addition to operating a DIY venue and booking shows at the local "cool kid" spots, he was also part of a shitty white guy hip hop duo and had an operation called "The Rap Van." The idea was that he would load up about 15 buzzed participants from the local bar in the back of his white cargo van, and he'd drive it around while an actually talented rapper would perform. Tucson ate that shit up. So did I.
In the beginning of our friendship, my rapist and I actually had a consensual sexual relationship. I mean.. sort of. He was also sleeping with a number of other girls 15 years younger than him and lying to me about it. That's where the sexual relationship ended, and I insisted that we either pursue a plutonic, professional friendship, or nothing at all. He chose the former. After six months of effort, it finally felt natural to just be friends.
One night, we ended up taking a mini road trip up north with another female friend of mine. The trip was originally supposed to be just she and I, but she put herself in charge of finding us a third person with a vehicle, and he's who she chose.
Initially I wasn't sure about it. I didn't know if I could completely relax on an overnight trip with him. But after hours of friendly conversation (during which he continued to gush about his new love interest), I started to feel more comfortable. He was our designated driver, so my friend and I participated in some good old fashioned binge drinking. One of the neighborhood bars had a niche drink-- 30 oz of Mountain Dew and vodka. We caught ourselves a caffeinated buzz, but I never lost consciousness.
I remember getting into the van and asking my rapist if he was good to drive. He said "I'm not even kind of drunk", and he drove us to our location. Once we got to our camping spot, he and my friend went outside to smoke a cigarette, and I fell asleep in the back of the van fully clothed-- jeans, shoes, and all.
I woke up the next morning exactly how I fell asleep, except my hips were in excruciating pain, which I chalked up to sleeping on the floor of a van. Throughout the remainder of our trip, my rapist kept making jokes about how we "had sex." I knew that even in my drunkest state, I had no interest in doing that with him again, and he said it in such a way where I believed he was kidding.
The jokes persisted all the way back to Tucson, and my friend started getting in on it, too. When I finally asked my friend why she kept saying that we had sex, she simply said "Because you did." I asked her how she knew-- Did I do it in front of her, did she see me, was I vocal, was there movement? She said "no, it seemed like you were passed out, but he was moving and grunting, so I knew you guys were doing it." She was so cavalier about it. He was, too. I didn't ask any further questions, and spent the next week feeling terribly about myself-- How could I do something that I was so explicitly against?
Finally, I confronted him. I sent him a message on Facebook spilling my guts-- Telling him how fucked up it was that he felt welcome to my body when I was clearly unconscious. I had spent six months rejecting his advances and making my stance clear...there was no room for doubt. He responded apologetically, admitting "I didn't get your consent. I didn't check in...as a friend."
I confided this to the owner of the record store, who is still to this day one of the best men I know. He respected that I wasn't sure about going public, but advised me that my rapist was featured on a local rapper's upcoming album, as well as a local zine. He told me that he refused to carry the zine and album with my rapist's name on it, and thought it was only fair to give the artist's behind those projects fair warning.
And so we did. We told a few people the truth at a time. And then it blew up. In no time, my good friend, who is a well-known hip hop artist in Tucson publicly outed my rapist on Facebook (with my permission, of course). It became the talk of the town. The venue that hosted The Rap Van cancelled his upcoming events. His hip hop duo's album release was cancelled. Word spread like wildfire.
Before my name was even associated with the outing, "his side" of the story started circulating. My rapist was going around letting everyone know that I was the one who raped him-- That's right. I grabbed him by his bits and forced him into mine. Poor guy. Even more ridiculous is that people actually believed him.
Let it be known that I did file a police report only a couple of weeks after the assault. I provided a very detailed report and followed up with the police. Nothing happened.
I was overwhelmed with support in Tucson, no doubt. But there were also a significant amount of people who were actively against me-- Many of them were people I considered friends. I stopped getting DJ gigs (not like I wanted even wanted them anymore, I didn't even want to leave the house). My rape became my life. People were constantly coming up to me at work (I worked weekend at a popular bar) and sharing their personal assault stories. People were also constantly coming into my work just to stare me down and intimidate me. I couldn't escape my rape no matter where I went, and I stopped feeling safe in my own town.
My rapist fled Tucson shortly after he was outed. He deleted all social media, never publicly addressed the issue, hopped in his Rap Van, and took off. As if that didn't scream "guilty" enough, I had publicly shared a screenshot of the conversation in which he admitted to raping me. That wasn't enough for a lot of people. Music bros kept demanding more proof, demanding police reports, demanding answers from me personally. Even female survivors were speaking out against me, claiming that I had single-handedly ruined the downtown music scene with my "allegation", and that I should have gone through the police, not social media.
I reached a point in only a matter of months where I realized it was never going to get better for me in Tucson. I was sleeping all day, only waking up when I had to go to work. I was dangerously depressed and knew that I had two options-- Move or die. I chose to move.
In the midst of saving up for my move, it was brought to my attention that my rapist had fled to Detroit, where he was hosting The Rap Van shows at a different bar. Same shit, different city. It was also brought to my attention that his van was being funded by a creative grant issued by Meow Wolf, a well-known creative organization based out of Santa Fe.
At this point, I was too drained to take any further action. Fortunately, I had a lot of really incredible soldiers fighting for me. People I didn't even know were rallying together to call the Detroit bars and performers associated with The Rap Van to warn them of my rapist and his actions. After this, he eventually fled to Canada, masquerading it as a tour-- Calling it "Vanada." Shortly after that, The Rap Van's instagram was deactivated and I haven't heard any news of him since.
A really remarkable amount of friends and strangers also rallied together to contact Meow Wolf-- Eventually getting in touch with the CEO. While it was too late to revoke the grant, my friend negotiated with the CEO, who agreed to match his Rap Van grant as a donation to SACASA, the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.
That wasn't the only good thing to come of my rape. It turns out that leaving Tucson was the best decision I've ever made. My whole life has turned around for the best. While I still suffer from PTSD night terrors, I'm working through my trauma in therapy.
Meanwhile in Tucson, there are still plenty of bros who insist that my rapist is innocent. And that makes me worry for what they're capable of, as well. I fear for the young men and women of Tucson. I fear for the young men and women who participate in art scenes everywhere. So many of us find music and carve out little communities for ourselves through that art, thinking that we are surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals who, regardless of gender, are all to some varying degree "feminists." When that gets tested, you realize that, in the face of clear evidence, folks who were so much a part of your progressive, mindful, equal community are quick to not take sides in a situation where right is is clearly right and wrong is clearly wrong.
All that we have is our voice. And all that we can hope is that someone listens. Thanks for listening.
About the art:
This story shook me at my core - it's a story that hits home in a lot of ways, especially with so many men in the indie/emo music scenes being outed for their predatory and/or outright sexually deviant behavior.
Molly is one of my favorite folks to interact with on Instagram - it's really the only place we know each other. She has great taste in music and has always been straightforward when discussing her mental health and life situations. So when she reached out to me after I was calling out a dude for basically what she discusses in this story (re: bros needing more "proof" and not believing the accounts of survivors), I suggested sharing a story with us - and she had it ready to go almost IMMEDIATELY. I essentially woke up to the story in my inbox.
I'm so thankful that Molly was able to take a careful look at her circumstance and recognize what she could/needed to do to be safe and have a chance at a more normal life - and sometimes that takes moving away. I WISH I could say this is the first time I've heard that rationale, but the reality is that many folks end up having to disassociate from a scene, or leave it altogether in order to preserve some sanity. That's why the words in this piece are some important - it's so real.
And it's such a necessary and poignant story to read because it encapsulates many elements of pervasive and explicit behaviors existent in the scenes today. There's no room for a scene to be unsafe, coercive, and/or dangerous FOR ANYONE. I just hope we truly begin listening to voices and survivors and challenging the toxic behaviors of men in the scene and at the gigs.