Artist David Choe Apologizes for Statements About Rape and Says Story Was Fictional

“I have ZERO history of sexual assault. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words. Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about.”

Artist David Choe has responded to rape accusations that have fueled an ongoing conversation on the street and in the media and social threads in the last two weeks. Posting a 300 word statement and heartfelt apology on one of his Instagram accounts late Friday the artist addresses his talk show storytelling of a troubling sexual abuse/rape scenario in 2014 that he later denied was factual but appeared to make light of.

The awarding of a large high-profile mural facing the public in Manhattan this month brought the story to the fore, resulting in widespread criticism of the artist and the walls’ owner for inviting him. The overwhelming criticism was that, by choosing this artist to paint here, there was an implied normalization of rape and so-called “rape culture”. (For more on this see our article last week.)

David Choe painting the Houston-Bowery Wall, June 2017 (photo ©Jaime Rojo)

In the days following the completion of the mural, the Houston-Bowery wall was vandalized by other artists and graffiti writers and posted upon with a multi-page information campaign denouncing the painter of the mural as a rapist. For some context, this wall has often suffered street beefs with vandals painting over the mural in hit-and-run tagging and in the case of a mural by Shepard Fairey, the actual smashing of holes in the physical structure itself.

The new statement categorically denies that the original story was true, owing to a desire to be shocking or outrageous on a talk show, and in some way tracing the underlying need to tell the story to the authors’ own negative feelings toward himself. It also squarely faces the core matter of Choe’s opinion of rape and the impact that his words can have. Given the number of young impressionable fans and followers he has, these words are a categorical clarification and will have a positive impact without doubt.

Finally, the context in which he presents the statement is one where the author has been on an emotional and psychological investigation of his own over the last few years, a painful journey where he is coming to terms with serious challenges. This last matter is in alignment with numerous public statements he has made about facing demons and overcoming them through work and healing over recent years. Apart from the issue of rape, it is significant that the subject of mental illness is being addressed openly and frankly as well because of the stigma and burden it has often carried.

This is a very positive step. We take David Choe’s words at face value with the hope that moving forward this brings a healthy, constructive, and open dialogue on issues that face us all.

From David Choe’s Instagram:

“How does one apologize for a lifetime of doing wrong? Through my past three years of recovery and rehabilitation, I’ve attempted to answer that question through action and understanding. In my life I’ve struggled deeply with an unnatural amount of hatred I’ve had towards myself. Most of my life I’ve been a scared hurt shame filled person, trying to mask my insecurities with false confidence and an outwardly negative behavior to validate myself as worthy. In a 2014 episode of DVDASA, I relayed a story simply for shock value that made it seem as if I had sexually violated a woman. Though I said those words, I did not commit those actions. It did not happen. I have ZERO history of sexual assault. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words. Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about. I was a sick person at the height of my mental illness ,and have spent the last 3 years in mental health facilities healing myself and dedicating my life to helping and healing others through love and action. I do not believe in the things I have said although I take full ownership of saying them. Additionally, I do not condemn anyone or have any ill will towards those who spread hate and speak out negatively against me, no one will ever hate me more than I hated myself back then. Today I’ve learned to love and forgive others just as much as myself. It’s been a rough journey but i am grateful to be alive and to dedicate myself to shining the light I have found within myself and live in service and gratitude. I am truly sorry for the negative words and dark messages I had put out into the world.”

Addendum: We have offered to David Choe and Goldman Properties to speak with us about this story and neither has responded favorably. Mr. Choe also has blocked us from viewing his social media accounts for at least the past week.