Tina Ross: I didn’t see it coming.

It’s taken me over a year to acknowlege that what happened to me was sexual assault and battery. I keep telling myself that if the person who attacked me had been a stranger, I would have gone straight to the police. But what would you do when your friend attacks you while he’s under the influence of alcohol? I pretended it didn’t happen. I stuffed it aside because I didn’t want to damage his warm reputation in our community or damage my own reputation. I also thought that because I stood up for myself against him in the situation, that he would never do that to me again; I gave him a drunken pardon. One of the hardest parts of this experience is that although I know that I did nothing wrong and he is entirely at fault, is the worry that my peers may lash out at me for having a voice, for telling my story and expressing the deep set confusion and pain that accompanies the victims of sexual assault. Despite the reasons I gave to excuse his behavior, I’ve kept his secret for the last 14 months, unknowingly at the cost of other women getting hurt.

In the last two weeks, 15 women in the cocktail community have come forward sharing similar incidents and repeated offenses that were inflicted by that same man over the last 5 years. It became clear that what happened to me was not something that can be excused as a drunken mistake as this man repeatedly attacked several of my close friends. It became clear that sexual assault is alive in our community and that the fear of additional victimization is what is preventing the victims from speaking up about their injustice.

Someone hurt me under the assumption that they wouldn’t be held accountable or have to recognize the damage they have done. Thousands of victims sit in silence and suffer everyday because they feel like they don’t have a voice. They worry about fear of retaliation, fear of being blamed or shamed, fear of the criminal justice system not being effective or being embarrassed about what happened. This fear is perpetuating the problem and preventing justice. I can’t allow this fear anymore, so this is my story and my voice:

I can no longer excuse you for walking into my place of work during closing hours, approaching me after everyone has retreated upstairs, reaching your hands to my throat and choking me while you explicitly verbalize the sexual behavior you want to inflict on my body. I can no longer excuse that after I managed to get away from you and scolded you saying “DO NOT touch me” that you followed me down the hallway and a few minutes later, you pinned my 95 lb body against a wall as your proceeded to choke me again and verbalize the horrible things you wanted to do to me.  Once I was able to break away, I yelled at you “DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME! This is completely unacceptable behavior and you need to never do that again!”

…You returned the very next night and began to reach for my throat.

Right after the incident I confided in a few friends, whom all chalked it up as “oh he was just drunk.” Their lack of concern confused me, so I kept the incident to myself and remained confused and unsure about what had happened to me.

In the last few weeks I have learned of horrendous behavior. I am utterly shocked and heartbroken by the things someone in our community did to the people that he claimed to love. This person attacked some of the strongest women that I know and these strong women struggled for months and even years to speak up.

I’ve shared my story because I believe everyone needs to know the severity of this issue in the cocktail community. I fear that there are many incidents of sexual assault in our community that haven’t been reported. I hope that these men and women know that they are able to speak up and that their colleagues will listen. As a whole we need to be able to recognize what sexual assault is, in order to hold ourselves and each other accountable and to look out for one another. Under no circumstances is it ok to touch another person, say vulgar and offensive things or even send a sexual photograph to a person without their consent. When someone approaches you and tells you that they has been assaulted, please don’t brush it off or use the excuse that the perpetrator was “just drunk.”
It is a hard reality to face that as an industry, we tend to look past immoral and illegal behavior. It is tragic that some of these horrible incidents were blamed on overindulgence. It is devastating that our industry often overlooks and sometimes even celebrates excessive drinking and drug use in a positive light.


Because of this, I got #straused

Tina Ross