I’ve been putting off writing this post for weeks. While I’m proud of what we are trying to accomplish, I must admit it’s an uncomfortable subject that brings up hurtful things to think about.
I’ve been following the Joyful Heart Foundation’s work for years as well as their extension, End the Backlog. Mariska Hargitay is a personal hero of mine and I'm inspired by her work and how she has used her platform to bring justice and peace to survivors.
The truth is, I had been wanting to work on an initiative supporting sexual assault survivors since before Hana Koa Brewing existed. The project was put on a fast track when I found a friend hiding in my job’s cold box. They were shaking and the flashbacks were coming and I felt so helpless. I’ve had those terrifying moments myself, but to see someone I love reliving their trauma gave me the push to bring the project to life. I wanted them to know in as quiet a way as I could, that I saw them, I was with them, believed them, and their pain wasn’t something they had to carry on their own.
So I pushed to make the first Shine a Light initiative beer. We donated to End the Backlog and shared local resources from Hawaii’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center.
Once we launched that first batch of “Shine a Light”, all sorts of people felt they could confide in me about their experiences. I was glad they shared such delicate things with me and that we didn’t have to be silent anymore.
Fast forward a month and the “Me Too” movement of craft beer hit the industry. Brienne Allen posted a vague poll on her Instagram, RatMagnet, asking if anyone else had dealt with sexism and misogyny in the beer world. Responses came in by the thousands, lighting up her dm’s. She posted screenshots of stories ranging from blunt misogyny to violent rape. I recognized some people called out, and I shared my own story. Seven additional women posted about similar experiences with the same person I had come forward about. It was one of the roughest weekends of my life. Reading story after story that we all know so well in different ways was draining, yet cathartic. I was reliving not just the experience I had come forward about, but so many other experiences that are unfortunately too many to count.
My dear friend Melissa was going to host a ladies night in her taproom, The Good Hop, in my hometown where we could all be safe, cry together, dance together, and heal. After realizing that I needed my support system more than ever, I booked a one-way flight. I shared a lone 4 pack of our batch of Shine a Light with the crowd. Melissa encouraged me to make a speech because I had flown out from Hawaii for the event. I was shaking and crying as I shared what Shine a Light represents and how deep seeded this issue weaves within the fabric of the beer industry. The subtle joy was that the first batch had sold out in record time, proof that people are listening, aching to bring noise and break the silence. I would not have kept pushing with this endeavor if it weren't for the support I was given from so many strong women that weekend.
From that movement Brave Noise was born, a beautiful tribute and initiative to survivors to make the industry an inclusive and safe space to the industry's minorities.
I must admit, that one of the most heavy and lingering feelings surrounding the RatMagnet movement has been the response. At first some were in full support, some made changes, some were performative, and some slandered the movement. I will say this: survivors have been paying attention and taking note. We’ve paid attention to when and where abusers are supported and welcomed despite the gravity of claims, and in the opposite where we are heard and our safety is made a priority. One common complaint that I kept hearing in response to the movement is that the stories should be reporting accordingly, and social media isn’t where you find justice. To that point, I say that there are so many times where survivors try to report but they simply aren’t believed and worse, their reputation and character are slandered. We can’t keep going forward with this way of thinking, expecting things to get better.
With Shine a Light, the complexity of this subject has grown. I’ve heard some sugar coat the RatMagnet stories attributing poor behavior to alcohol. Scapegoating alcohol is infuriating and just alleviates the blame on the aggressor. I’ve been around plenty of intoxicated people that didn’t force their way on me. Believing that alcohol should be weighed in on the gravity of rape is supporting rape culture and as an alcohol producer I’m here to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If someone gets sexually forceful when they’re intoxicated, then it’s their responsibility to keep themselves in check.
It's absurd that when someone comes forward about sexual assault the inevitable questions return the focus of the blame back to the victim.
“What were you wearing?”
“Did you give them the wrong idea?”
“How much did you have to drink?”
Consent can be taken away at any point and if lack of consent is met with force, the aggressor’s behavior is where the problem lies. Few things in this world are so simple, but this is where it’s black and white. If you have to force the action or force consent, it destroys the very definition of consent.
I feel as though the atrocious backlog of untested rape kits is the perfect example of why women in the beer industry have stayed silent for so long… and why it has built up to this moment. We have been wanting to be taken seriously in a male dominated industry. Our experience is valid. Yet we hush ourselves away until we have felt we’ve earned the space we take. I honestly feel like it takes a decade under your belt to start getting sick of the sexist treatment and overall depravity. You have to be a part of the majority (boys) club in order to earn any sort of rapport, but after a while, at what cost and what sort of rapport? I often see some women feel the need and safety of the very men that are to blame when the status quo gets challenged, so they support it from a female perspective and destroy the stories of the women that come forward. After all you will have the majority’s support… But how do we make effective change for the ones like us that will follow in generations to come?
We are tired and we are deliberately choosing to not be victims any longer, but that requires time, attention, and help. It requires the rest of our community to pay attention and take action.
When these actions take place, we ask ourselves if we attracted this in some way, if we invited it, if we made ourselves a target… but a target does not exist without a predator.
• 1 in 3 women are survivors of sexual violence.
• 1 in 4 men are survivors of sexual violence.
• 1 in 2 transgender people experience sexual violence.
• Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
• Recent estimates put the cost of rape at $122,461 per victim, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs.
• 3 out of 4 sexual assaults go unreported to police.
Rape culture tells us that someone may be “asking for it” based on what they are wearing, what activities they participate in, or how much they drank. We want to end the stigma and shine a light on the epidemic.
The Shine a Light beer collab simply exists to support sexual assault survivors and seek proactive change to prevent any future aggression. With the amazing work that the Joyful Heart Foundation does and by extension, End the Backlog, along with local and national crisis efforts, we believe proactive change is possible and in action if we include it in the beer industry.