[Editor’s Note: The following article includes descriptions of sexual assault and may be disturbing to certain readers.]
Sexual assault in the local music community has been a topic of much discussion recently, with Portland’s Joel Magid being a central focus of the conversation and headlines.
Earlier this month the local musician took to Facebook to apologize—in an attempt, in his words, to be “accountable”—for sexually assaulting a woman while claiming to be blackout drunk.
“I recently sexually assaulted someone,” he wrote. “In this encounter, I pulled out my penis and forcibly lifted the woman’s skirt. A friend of mine intervened and stopped my behavior.”
“I’m not looking for sympathy,” Magid continued, announcing he was going to start AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and seek a therapist. He was initially lauded by a number of people online for being “brave” and “transparent” (in addition to receiving a fair amount of criticism and anger). Magid’s apology landed him in news outlets like the New York Post and the Daily Mail.
A few days later, a woman became increasingly incensed by his post and publicly disclosed what she says she’s known for six years: She accused Joel Magid of raping her.
“Remember how I had to ‘furiously and broken heartedly’ explain to my best friend what happened that night after she found me lying in my bed with puke next to me?” she wrote in a public Facebook statement she shared with the Mercury. “Maybe it’s time for you to admit there are others, maybe even countless others, you have done this to.”
The woman notes that it was Magid’s Facebook post that spurred her to report him to the Portland Police. Magid did not respond to the Mercury’s multiple requests for comment then or for this article.
In fact, he remained silent until giving a widely lambasted, and now deleted, 23-minute interview with KGW last week.
Magid adamantly denied ever raping the woman who came forward after his Facebook post. He called what the Mercury had been reporting a “witch hunt” and said, of the fallout from his original Facebook post, “I’ve paid for my one crime more than I think I expected to.”
It has irked many in the Portland music community and beyond who believe that Magid, a man who admitted to committing a sexual assault, was the one to dictate the conversation, on his terms.
However, according to his ex-fiancée, who goes by the name Rhea Melina, the assault that Magid confessed to on Facebook was similar to an incident she says he told her about when they were together.
About nine years ago, Melina says Magid admitted that “he was ‘blackout drunk,’ and had to be pulled off another girl at a party. He said he ‘didn’t even know what he was doing.’ He told me he knew he was touching her under her skirt, and was trying to kiss her or make out with her, and that his friends literally pulled his body off hers.”
Melina and Magid had been dating for two years before their engagement, and were living together in Seattle at the time of the incident Melina describes. She tells the Mercury that Magid apologized profusely for his action, and swore he’d take a break from drinking. However, according to Melina, he continued to drink heavily, and when she voiced concerns that he’d breached her trust, Magid blamed their failing relationship on her inability to forgive and forget.
“Again and again he kept saying, ‘But I told you, I’ve been honest with you, and I said I’m sorry,’” Melina says. “Like, he thought that because he’d said he was sorry, it was okay.” Melina believes that Magid was trying to minimize the magnitude of his actions by blaming alcohol and distancing himself from what happened. “[He] said that he wasn’t in control of his own body,” Melina says. “He wasn’t taking responsibility for the actions of his own body.” Soon after Magid’s confession, Melina says she chose to break off their engagement.
In the nine years since, Melina has cut off contact with Magid completely. But his recent Facebook confession inspired her to recount her own experience online. After being contacted by a detective, Melina says she is now cooperating with police in their investigation.
“This is not new behavior,” she says of her ex-fiancé. “It was so surreal to wake up one morning, look on Facebook, and see what he was saying to everyone, and how it was covered [in the media]. It resembles so much of what happened nine years ago.”
When asked for comment, Magid’s attorney Lissa Casey said that the woman depicted in Melina’s story “maintains that there was nothing non-consensual that happened between her and Joel [Magid].” She said her law firm spoke with “five witnesses” from that night, adding, “Mr. Magid intends to clear his name of what he considers the latest frivolous accusations, that both he and the woman involved deny ever happened.”
In fact, his attorney contends that the conversation between Magid and Melina never happened.
But “he definitely had that conversation with me—it’s why we wound up breaking up,” Melina says. “For him to deny that conversation is absurd.”
Obviously the subject of sexual assault in the Portland music community doesn’t begin and end with accusations leveled at Magid. In an attempt to offer a more rounded view of the topic, the Mercury is featuring a story of another musician and alleged perpetrator, followed by the stories of four survivors of sexual assault who are connected in some way to the Portland music community. Sexual assault is a problem everywhere—not just in Portland or its music community—but we hope the following locally based stories will amplify voices and experiences that may have been previously drowned out.
The survivors whose stories are in this piece, along with other survivors we talked to, expressed common experiences in the aftermath of their assaults. They have mistrust of—or have encountered indifference from—police and the justice system, they often dealt with crippling anxiety and emotional distress after the incidents, and they don’t really know what, exactly, to do in the aftermath.
A month before Joel Magid made international headlines for apologizing on Facebook for a sexual assault, another Portland musician confessed on the same social media platform to sex crimes that, until now, didn’t land on the media’s radar.
Jackson Walker—the now-former guitarist of local bands like Snow Roller, Helens, and Naked Hour—admitted that he, in his words, “groomed” and “sexually damaged” a 14-year-old girl when he was 18. The age of consent in Oregon is 18.
“She was vulnerable, and I was ignorant, and I began an emotionally and sexually damaging relationship with this person where I took things that I couldn’t give back,” Walker wrote in his second since-deleted post about the girl. “I groomed her and took advantage of her vulnerability to satiate some scary part of myself,” he wrote.
Before his Facebook posts, Walker’s name had landed on a recently created Google doc called the Blacklist used by a handful of Portland music venues and bookers to block people accused of sexual assault, violence, drug abuse, and other “unsafe” behavior from performing at and attending certain shows. He was encouraged by the creator of the Blacklist to publicly apologize.
In his first post, Walker was vague about what he did: “Someone has come forward and made it clear that I make them feel unsafe,” he began. “I take this very seriously—and want to be held accountable.”
Like Magid, Walker was lauded by a number of commenters for his post.
“It takes a lot of courage and realization of self to be able to admit this and to be publicly open about it,” wrote one.
Another: “You’re awesome Jackson, I know you’ll get where you need to be.”
Walker’s second post, quoted above, was more detailed at the insistence of the Blacklist’s creator. He was promptly booted from his bands.
“There wasn’t really a decision about whether or not to kick Jackson out,” Collin Kritz of Snow Roller told the Mercury. “With accusations as serious as the ones that were brought to light, Jackson had to be kicked out of the band. He was no longer to be a trusted figure in our lives, and since we all support safe spaces, he had to go.”
Walker did not respond to messages from the Mercury.
What follows are the experiences of local sexual assault survivors connected to the music community. It should be noted to avoid confusion that none of the following victims have accused Joel Magid or Jackson Walker of assaulting them. Many names in the following accounts have been changed to protect their privacy. Some of the language and descriptions may be upsetting to certain readers.
She’s a local musician, he’s a local organizer, and the two were friends. That is, until a traumatic night in a small Oregon town a few years ago when she says she was raped. “Kelly” says that she was abandoned by the police after reporting the crime, and ended up spending the night alone behind a convenience store after she was unable to get help.
Several years ago, Kelly met the guy at a house show, where she’d been introduced to a number of friends since moving to Portland in her early 20s. About a year later, the two were camping in the backyard of a house in the town of Veneta, located in Lane County.
“We were kissing and flirting in our tent,” Kelly recalls. “He wanted to have sex, and I was saying ‘no, no, no.’ And then he forced himself inside me. I had already said ‘no’ a million times, and yet he held me down. I freaked out and started hyperventilating.”
Afterward, she remembers the guy quickly denying he assaulted her.
“I went inside [the house] to collect my thoughts and figure out what I was going to do,” Kelly says. “He came in and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I would never do that.’ He was immediately making me doubt myself.”
It was too late to get a train back home. Her friends in Portland were unable to come get her. So she called 911 and waited on a dark street for help.
But when the two male deputies arrived, Kelly says they didn’t listen.
“I was just bawling, in the dark, very uncomfortable, and I think they just didn’t believe me,” Kelly says.
They didn’t take her to the hospital, or the police station.
“I told them I didn’t have anywhere to go, so what should I do?” she says. “They were like, ‘I think there’s a hotel down the street,’ and they left me there.”
She grabbed her sleeping bag and walked to a nearby convenience store to use its phone—her cell phone didn’t have service. She ended up having to sleep there, outside, on the cement.
“It was something out of a nightmare for me,” she says. “Like, how many times can we compound this?”
Back in Portland, and for months afterward, Kelly wouldn’t go outside after dark.
“It’s a really isolating experience,” she says, “because people don’t know what to do. They feel bad, [but] they kind of disappear.”
She adds, “It was really confusing for me that he was like, ‘I’m so sorry, I would never do that.’ It was a super mind-fuck. It was manipulating me from feeling a certain way.... It’s really difficult; it feels like people always side with the guy, or say it’s a misunderstanding or something—but when someone is repeatedly saying ‘no,’ it’s not really a misunderstanding.”
Kelly notes he’d continue to occasionally send her messages on Facebook, including a sappy love song video on Valentine’s Day.
Then she called the Portland Police about him.
“I told him to stop contacting me,” she said, “and I called the police thinking maybe I could a file a report a few months later and it would go over better.” Just like in Lane County, the Portland police sent two male cops.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, we don’t have evidence, we can’t do anything,’” she says.
Kelly’s recovered mentally from the incident, “but it’s difficult to know what to do. Do you say something [to other people]? Do you make this a big issue among everybody? Or do you just let it go and move on with your life? Because that’s what it seems like everybody wants you to do.”
“It took a long time to understand how it affected me,” said Jeni Wren Stottrup, a local musician, podcaster, and frequent contributor to the Mercury’s music section. She gave the Mercury permission to use her name for this story.
About a year after a fraught night with a local musician, she was getting drinks with a friend and it finally dawned on her why she’d been having panic attacks: “I was just like, ‘Yeah, I think that I was raped, I think that’s what it was. Yes.’ I think up until then, I was like, ‘No, I was drunk, it was my fault, I never should have been in that situation.’”
While working for a music promotion company, Stottrup says she met her eventual rapist while booking his band for a summer concert series.
One January night in 2015, she was at a bar with some colleagues from another job, “and I just didn’t want to go home yet,” she says. So she met up with the band member, who she had been talking to on Facebook occasionally.
“He was like, ‘You shouldn’t drive home,’” Stottrup remembers. “We ended up back at his house. I was like, ‘I don’t want to sleep with you, I don’t want this to happen.’ I was drunk, and barely remember anything from that night. It’s a blur. But I do remember it ended up happening anyway.”
She says she passed out, and woke up to him raping her.
“He was inside of me,” she recalls. “I remember him saying, ‘I didn’t know you were asleep.’ How do you not know someone was passed out? Passed out! How do you not pick up on that—that someone is limp? I don’t get that. It never would’ve been a situation I was okay with, but that is not a way I’d ever want to wake up.”
That morning, she left and, because it was a busy day, went about her work routine.
“There was no time to process how I felt about it—just went right into the day,” she says. “I just brushed it under the table.”
She soon developed anxiety and experienced terrible panic attacks, which led to being fired from one of her jobs.
But now she knows, unequivocally, what happened that January night was rape.
Stottrup never went to the police, as she felt unable to trust how the cops would handle it and was scared of the scrutiny that could be placed on her, as well as the possibility of people thinking she was doing it just for attention. She recalled the time she was in college at the University of Iowa when star basketball player Pierre Pierce was accused of a sexual assault (he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge), and the vitriol the community directed towards the woman he abused.
“A part of me feels culpable for not having spoken up,” she says now. “But if you feel weird about it—feel weird about it. It’s okay. Don’t pretend you didn’t feel weird about it for a long time. I feel guilty about that. Your brain is literally messing with you to a point where you no longer want to trust yourself.”
One night last October, “Sam” (who uses they/them pronouns) went with a woman they were involved with at the time to see one of their favorite bands at a popular house venue in Portland. At one point Sam left the basement show to use the restroom upstairs. They were pulled into a bedroom and sexually assaulted by the frontman of the band performing that night. Sam vaguely knew him, since they were a fan of his music—the two had also matched on Tinder a month prior—but they had never spoken.
Sam remembers being intoxicated, and moving in and out of consciousness throughout the assault.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know there was a point where he was inside of me, and then gone,” says Sam, who doesn’t remember the assault ending, but does recall running downstairs to the party, crying and hyperventilating as they were surrounded by people. Sam told others they believed they were raped, and someone took them to the hospital to have a rape kit administered.
The following morning, Sam dropped out of college and moved back in with their parents in a town south of Portland due to what had happened. Shortly after, Sam’s closest friend spoke out against the accused musician on Facebook.
“They didn’t believe he could be capable of such a thing,” Sam says of the frontman’s friends who responded to the post. “It was his word against mine.”
This backlash made Sam feel guilty, and doubt their own memory after enduring a deluge of questions about the incident. “I just felt really alone and scared for the first three months after this happened,” Sam says.
News of the Facebook post soon spread to the man who assaulted Sam.
“The week after it happened and my friend had posted, he messaged me on Facebook and wrote he was in California trimming weed, and wondering if I actually believed what I was saying,” Sam remembers. “I never messaged him back. It was a really cool coincidence for him—leaving two weeks after he raped me.”
Sam continued to speak out about their assault on social media, despite the negative response.
“One of the things I was told on Facebook was that my story would be ‘more believable’ if the police were involved,” Sam says. “I just couldn’t believe it—thanks, but you need someone else to tell you what happened to me.” Sam did try to file a police report in November, but said they couldn’t handle the emotional pressure.
“The reason I never went back to the police was because they outright told me that it was a hard case to believe—just because I don’t know exactly what happened in the room,” Sam said. “I was so shaken, I didn’t go back.”
Sam remembered the rape kit being performed the night of the assault, but has never been contacted by the hospital.
“The police never asked about it when I went to see them,” Sam adds. “I never heard about the kit again. Not saying it was thrown out—I just don’t know about it.”
Almost a year later, Sam still feels unsatisfied with how police responded to their account of the assault.
Sam hasn’t moved back to Portland, but returns a few times a month to attend house shows with friends. The band they went to see that night has since broken up, and Sam noted that many of the people who once questioned them are now supportive.
“Since then there’ve been a lot of house shows where all the proceeds from the door donations go to the SAVE Fund,” Sam says. “It’s basically a program that collects donations to support survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”
Ironically enough, Sam said the venue where they were assaulted also hosted a show where proceeds went to the SAVE Fund.
When “Audrey” was 17 years old, she met an older guy named “Daniel” at one of his band’s shows. Audrey said she got drunk, and Daniel flirted with her. She didn’t know how old he was, but assumed he was in his mid-20s.
He started sending Audrey messages on Facebook, and she remembered inviting him to hang out at her best friend’s apartment. She thought at most they would kiss, and was not anticipating any sexual contact—she had never had sex before, and Daniel had a girlfriend. She was nervous, so she drank liquor and eventually got blackout drunk. Her friend went out to buy cigarettes, and the next thing Audrey remembers is Daniel having sex with her.
“I had no intention of sleeping with him when he came over,” she says. “That’s the thing I think about the most—I had no idea that was gonna happen. I didn’t expect it and I didn’t want that.... It was really painful. I’m sorry if that’s vulgar, but it was honestly the worst pain I’d ever felt. That was what brought me back [to consciousness], the pain. I remember I looked up at him and said, ‘This is my first time’—and he laughed at me. I don’t really remember anything else.”
She continues, “I didn’t feel good about it, but I didn’t have any frame of reference for what sex or love was supposed to look like.” Audrey says that when she was young, before her parents divorced, her dad was physically violent with her mom.
Following this first assault, Audrey says Daniel didn’t talk to her for the two weeks he was on tour with his girlfriend. When he did reach out, it was to instruct her not to tell anyone what had happened.
When Daniel got home, he called Audrey and asked to see her again.
“I went and hung out with him, and something similar happened—he got me really drunk and then had sex with me,” Audrey says. “I remember him telling me if anybody found out, and if he faced any kind of legal repercussion, he promised I would die. Whether he went to jail or not, he would make sure I was dead. That was the first time I was like, ‘Whoa, this isn’t in my control. This has never been in my control.’ It was almost fun at first—getting attention from an older man—but I was not the one running the show at all.”
Audrey says Daniel made this threat in April 2014, while they were sneaking into an abandoned building. When she admitted she’d told somebody about his first assault, she says he responded by saying, “If I go to jail, I will make sure you die.”
“I told him, ‘You can’t kill me if you’re in jail,’ and he said, ‘I know people who’d kill you for me,’” Audrey remembers. “I tried to tell him that’s not funny, and he was like, ‘It’s not a joke.’ He specifically said, ‘It’s not a joke.’ I grew up in a household of abuse, and my dad was really threatening and physically violent towards us when we were kids. I don’t take threats lightly. I really believed him.”
Audrey said that throughout the course of their relationship, Daniel isolated her from her friends while he slept around and used heroin. This continued until he abruptly left the country without telling her. During this hiatus she was sexually assaulted again, this time by a man named “Andrew” at a crowded house show. After that assault, Daniel returned to Portland, and he and Audrey got back together, but she eventually broke up with him. She describes feeling “brainwashed” and manipulated throughout the relationship, but says she was afraid to go to the police because of Daniel’s threat and previous experiences she’d had with law enforcement.
“I’ve never had a positive experience with a cop, and they were around a lot when I was a kid,” says Audrey, who is now 20. “My dad would beat the shit out of my mom and we’d call the [Portland police] and they’d be pretty much like, ‘We didn’t see anything,’ and leave. That happened a lot, and it definitely put something in my mind that I wasn’t going to get help for abuse. The other thing is, it looks really bad that I went back to him.”
The details of these accounts vary, but there are striking similarities. When the validity of their experiences was questioned, victims often felt isolated and alone. Some felt dissatisfied with and distrustful of law enforcement: “Kelly” says she was left stranded in an unfamiliar town in the middle of the night by seemingly disinterested police. When “Sam” tried to file a report, they say the police deemed their story “unbelievable” and that they never asked about their rape kit. Growing up, “Audrey” remembers having negative interactions with the police when she called to report her father’s domestic violence, which led to her decision to not contact authorities later. Even when they weren’t actively silenced or ignored, these victims were left with the impression that their stories needed to be “believable” in order to be actionable—a qualifier that placed the burden of proof on them.
When it’s “his word against mine,” the accused seems to have the upper hand. This is especially true if the victim keeps quiet. When victims do speak up, excuses like “she was drinking,” “she’s a stripper,” and “she didn’t say no” abound.
There’s often meager punishment for those who admit sexual abuse—according to RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization), just six out of every thousand perpetrators will go to jail. Since, statistically speaking, perpetrators of sexual assault are less likely to go to jail than robbers, there isn’t much incentive for victims to go to the police.
Magid’s Facebook admission shocked those in the Portland music community and beyond, because it’s rare to hear someone admit to committing an assault—especially someone with status within a specific community. But openly admitting to a crime is meaningless on its own, no matter who does it—perhaps it’s an attempt to be morally absolved, to avoid concrete consequences, or to control the narrative surrounding the assault without facing legal repercussions. What’s more, self-reporting sometimes earns alleged perpetrators immediate praise and congratulations from their communities for holding themselves accountable.
Sexual assault is a far-reaching issue that extends beyond any single arts scene. Concerts might be prime hunting grounds for sexual predators seeking out victims among potentially intoxicated attendees, but it’s difficult to argue that assault is any more prevalent here. What sets Portland’s music community apart is how it has reacted: Since police responses are often inadequate, the responsibility of creating safer spaces has often been left to the victims and their communities.
“Rebecca” (20) was born and raised in Portland. In the last year, she started the Blacklist, a private Google Doc where invited members of the music community can add the names of people in the Portland music scene who have made them feel unsafe.
“Some of them are in bands, some are just people who go to shows who are known, some are people who run spaces,” says Rebecca. While feeling “unsafe” is a loose requirement, she says a number of those listed stand accused of rape, sexual assault, or physical violence.
Rebecca is a survivor of sexual assault, and says her primary motive is to protect victims. Her goal is to see the list employed by venues and bookers in order to ban those accused of abuse from playing and attending concerts, making these spaces safer for victims. She doesn’t contact anyone on the list without consent of victims, and is refining an accountability process for admitted assaulters.
“If that admittance means immediate redemption—as in ‘You’re so brave’—it doesn’t mean anything at all,” she says. “That’s excusing.”
Rebecca says she wishes to remain anonymous due to death threats she’s received.
News of online admissions to sexual assault has inspired a series of Facebook groups and in-person meet-ups in Portland’s music community. When traditional means of reporting and punishing sexual assault fail to protect and amplify the voices of victims, approaches like the Blacklist and community forums represent a dive into uncharted waters. While these aren’t perfect solutions, they are attempts to create alternatives to the legal system for victims who feel unsafe letting the law handle their trauma. In the long run they may put pressure on the legal system to meet a higher standard when it comes to addressing sexual assault.
As Rebecca says, “This do-it-yourself accountability process exists because the other system isn’t working for us.”
The Mercury’s Megan Burbank contributed to this article.