On July 25, 2021, I was shaking. I had spent the entire day with the revved-up energy of someone either about to vomit or scream. The night before, I had been at a dive bar — just a few blocks from my abuser’s brewery — sobbing into the arms of two of my friends because I felt forced into a corner. This was a confrontation I tried so hard to avoid.
I was finally going to come forward about my abuser — a man who owned and founded a brewery in the city that proudly declared itself a safe space. We dated in the summer of 2017, and that summer, he sexually assaulted me. He took a condom off without my consent and engaged in other non-consensual sexual acts. After the assault, I went to Planned Parenthood. The nurse was concerned when I recounted what happened, but I was still in denial and embarrassed. She got me an appointment for an IUD right away.
Later, when he launched his brewery, it was with an event raising funds for Planned Parenthood.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
This had been years in the making. I considered doing this many times before, but I boiled over when accounts poured out on Brienne Allen’s Instagram page, @ratmagnet. I submitted my own story — without names — and messaged Brienne a few times. Then, I saw my abuser’s brewery post in support of those coming forward. I was furious. I messaged my abuser privately and found his response tepid, lacking, and avoidant. He continued to post content praising those coming forward and chastising the abusers without a shred of acknowledgment of what he knew he did to me. I messaged him again and again, only to get more avoidant responses. Right before I posted on July 25, my abuser had announced a new method for reporting harassment in his taproom — it was a Google Form, and responses would go straight to his inbox. I knew he couldn’t be trusted to field reports of harassment.
And so, after privately asking my abuser to take accountability for months and agonizing over the fallout of what I was about to do, I finally came forward publicly. In an Instagram post, I detailed my sexual assault and made demands of my abuser. I requested that his taproom move harassment reporting to a third party, asked to meet him with a mediator, and wanted him to admit he sexually assaulted me. He eventually met those demands on paper, although he qualified the sexual assault as “unwitting.” We had a mediation session, and in the time since, I’ve tried to move on.
But this is a wound that isn’t ever going to fully heal.
Until now, I’ve only spoken to close friends about what the following months were like. It was a period marked primarily by exhaustion. All I could do was sleep and work; work and sleep. I changed my psych medications several times. I spent time obsessing over every “gray area” sexual encounter I had with past partners — ones I had previously considered healthy. I had been too afraid or tired to put up more of a fight when a partner tried to push a boundary. I found myself “fawning” as a trauma response, seeking to appease my partners in any way they wanted so that they wouldn’t become dangerous. Exhaustion can be confused for acceptance.
I got into beer because my parents took up homebrewing as a hobby. For my 21st birthday, they brewed me a blueberry wheat beer called “Petey’s Blueberry Ale.” Their nickname for me is Sweetpea, “Petey” for short, and they chose blueberries because my dad always joked that my eyes were blue from all the berries I ate.
After I moved to New York in 2016 to pursue an acting career, I got a job as a server in a craft beer bar because I wanted my “survival work” to be something I was actually excited about. Since then, I’ve built a community in both beer and the arts. I came to understand that life is multifaceted; that I can create a collage of what I want it to look like.
I’ve also had to learn how to manage my trauma when on the clock.
Sometimes, I think of bartending as hosting. I get to curate a memorable night for someone. I get to be in control. I pick the music and the pace. My guests only get to know what I want them to know about me.
When I came forward, I gave up a part of that control.
Now, any time I serve someone I know is in the industry, my Instagram post flashes across my mind. Sometimes, I swear I’ve seen it flash across theirs, too. It’s jarring to work for tips that both my coworkers and I are depending on, and to not know what the person on the other side of the bar thinks of me.
There are so many questions I want to ask. There are so many things I want them to know.
Do you know my abuser? Are you buddies? What was your reaction when I came forward? Five, 8, or 14 ounces on that pour? Do you think I’m a liar? It didn’t happen in the confines of his brewery or taproom. He just had a small habit of taking off condoms without telling his partners and also covering their mouths without their consent. Any questions on the bottle list? I really can’t choose between the burger and the fried chicken sandwich — they’re both great. There’s a bathroom in the back. It’s large enough if you need to double over the sink and have a panic attack. Cash or credit? Are you going to tell him I served you?
When the stories came out on Brienne Allen’s Instagram, I — like a lot of folks — wasn’t surprised. It made sense. Harassment and assault permeate the craft beer industry. You hear the stories from friends over your final few pints of the night.
I knew I wasn’t alone when I came forward. I knew many others in the industry with similar stories about other individuals. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t alone in my experiences with my abuser. After I shared my story, multiple women reached out to me to tell me about similar experiences with the same man — he was and continues to be a well-known figure in the NYC beer scene, someone who had built his career on being “socially conscious,” all while abusing multiple partners in private. One of those women also came forward publicly on Instagram about her assault. The support, love, and friendship of these women has helped me to reclaim a part of myself I wouldn’t have without them.
For all the pain and hardship of the fallout that came from exposing my abuser, I’m more grateful than I can say to know I’m not alone. But this is obviously a double-edged sword. It’s a club you never want to be a part of. As other survivors can attest, I’m far from the only person working in craft beer who has to manage this type of trauma on a daily basis.
I’ve tried to find solutions, and I’ve learned that there aren’t any, really. Healing from something like this is a constant process — and sometimes, it gets to be too much. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that over the last year, I’ve teetered on the edge of leaving the beer industry forever. So many other folks have left because of the trauma inflicted on them by others within it.
There’s no concrete list of actions that can be crossed off to heal what is wrong here. Folks with open wounds are making your beer, packaging it, and serving it to you. Everything isn’t all good and fine just because it’s now out in the open.
I don’t know what the industry needs to move forward. I just know it’ll have to consider the permanent nature of trauma — it must not confuse survivors’ exhaustion with acceptance.