I remember being sexually assaulted in my high school media classroom like it was yesterday. The aftermath, counseling, suspension from school, judgment from school officials and peers has never left me, 18 years later. It’s a situation I am forced to remember when I read about young girls being sexually abused in any way.
According to RAINN, females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. It was my junior year. I didn’t even realize he had sexually assault me till the teasing started. This was a first for me.
I was sitting in class doing homework I didn’t finish the night before. I didn’t have to take the state standardized test that was for sophomores. My class was empty for the day because so many of my classmates were taking the test. Two students were exempt like me, a boy and a girl. Anna and Adam were cuddled up “sleep” on the floor. They laid there the entire time. Heard me say no. Saw my hair disheveled when they “awoke.” There were witnesses who gave statements. Yet I was still removed from my special academic program and sent to an alternative school.
Being that this was a media class, we had several classrooms that created the media department for our magnet program. I was in the main classroom we used for shooting video. Across the hall was our lab for developing pictures. Next door to the lab was my teacher’s office and audio studios where I would later record voice over’s and the school announcements. The classrooms doors formed a triangle so we were all closely packed into one part of the school.
My teachers were right across the hall from me as I was being sexually assaulted.
Media had two teachers, Mr. D and Mr. T. With so many students out of the classroom for the day they didn’t need to watch us three closely. Normally everything would have been fine. They’d left us alone before in similar situations.
Tyrone was someone I’d met my sophomore year at Poly. He wasn’t a high school crush. He had a cousin named Tray that went to Dunbar High. I never found out if they were really related. It’s what Tyrone told me. I started my HS career at Dunbar but transferred to Poly my sophomore year. I couldn’t hang in Dunbar’s Engineering Magnet program. But more than that God had me on a path towards Media and Journalism not Science.
Tyrone said he had heard some things from his cousin at Dunbar about my reputation. Tray was a basketball standout on an already stacked team that dominated our cities basketball scene. These guys were popular and known throughout the Stop Six community where Dunbar is located. I doubt Tray really knew me. I certainly never recall ever discussing anything with Tray till this day and he’s since worked with my sister. He was someone I saw from a distance but wasn’t cool enough to ever talk too. You know how high school was. Tyrone tried to use what his cousin told him as justification for violating me.
Tyrone being a young hormonal boy wanted to seize the empty classroom opportunity. He walked into the classroom and sat down by me. This was nothing new he’d always stopped by our class to annoy our teacher or talk to girls. On this day he sat down beside me and asked for oral sex. I was adamant in saying no and continuing with my math homework. He persisted, even going so far as to grab my head and push it down. I’ve always had long hair and worn it neat. Tyrone grabbing my head left my hair messy. Eventually Mr. D showed up in the doorway. But he couldn’t see much from where he was standing. By this time Tyrone’s hands were off of my head. His entrance into the classroom prompted Tyrone to leave but not before joking with my teacher. About this time the two students on the floor “woke” up. Shortly after class was over.
Maybe the next day a girl in class asked me about the rumors that I hadn’t heard. She said people were saying, “You gave head to Tyrone in Mr. D’s classroom.” I denied the claim because that is not what happened.
What I didn’t know was after we left class that day, Anna and Adam told everyone who would listen I gave Tyrone oral sex. Tyrone agreed to the story being told. I couldn’t believe it.
A day later, I’m playing in the gym wasting time due to testing. A few guys I have classes with are joking around. They had a piece of paper clipped from a newspaper with the words “In the cross hairs of a head hunter.” To these young men head hunter was a girl who gave great oral sex. It was in reference to me. I asked them what they were talking about and everyone just laughed.
60 percent of high school boys find it acceptable to force sex on a girl in some circumstances.
I reported the incident to a teacher and that landed one of the boys and I in the office. The boy then told the story he had heard about Tyrone and me. This is how my sexual assault came to light. I don’t know why I didn’t tell when it happened. This was my first time being sexually assaulted.
Anna and Adam were asked to tell what happened in the classroom. Tyrone and I also gave our statements. Adam said he heard me say no but that it wasn’t a forceful no. Anna said my hair was disheveled when she awoke and saw me after. No always means no. Writing this now its incredible that my no was ignored because it wasn’t forceful.
The female Police liaison officer for my school took up the case since it involved sex. At one point during our interviews, her husband stopped by. “Baby these kids trying to have sex in the classroom.” He looked at us. I’m not sure why he stopped by, but it was deeply inappropriate. It made me feel uncomfortable.
My male school principal stopped by the police office to get an update on the situation. He basically told me if boys think you are a whore they will treat you as such. This was in response to Tyrone claiming his cousin told him about me. I won’t ever forget his words. I was a 16-year old girl who had been sexually assaulted and didn’t even realize it.
Tyrone told a different story despite Anna and Adam saying they heard me say no several times. He said I willingly engaged in oral sex with him. For that I was third partied out of school. What really happened is that I was sexually assaulted in a place that should have watched Tyrone and me. For that, Tyrone was third partied out of school also.
We both had hearings at the school district offices with our parents on the same day. Did I mention this was happening during the Christmas Holidays and my only brothers graduation from college? My Mom gave an impassioned plea to keep me in school but the older Latino man didn’t listen to her or my father. I was immediately placed in an alternative school. Because the decision was made so close to Christmas break I would start the new school in January. My parents immediately appealed this decision.
During the holiday break, every school board member in my city received a letter from my parents. My Mom created this packet with the statements of Anna, Adam, Tyrone and myself. She circulated them around to those who might have an interest in my case. News media, city council members, the superintendent, no one was safe from the letter packets my Mom created. She launched a hell of a campaign to get me back in school.
I had to return my text books to Poly and withdraw from my classes. My Mom went with me. She made more of her packets, giving every one of my teachers one. She wanted them to know how unfair this ruling was. We started at my classrooms on the fourth floor of my school, for when or if school officials were offended by the packets. We didn’t want more trouble with them.
The letters worked. Most cases on appeal are normally denied. The Superintendent of Schools held a special meeting to decide my case. His secretary called my house the evening they met. It was after school hours when most should have already been departing for home. The Superintendent granted me a transfer to any school FWISD HS I chose to attend in my district. I chose to return to Poly. They assured me that the principal would be waiting on my Mom and I with an apology.
The next morning my Mother and I went to Poly High School where the principal greeted us in such a welcoming manner. As if he never called me a whore to my face. He apologized for this ordeal and made sure I registered for classes. I wasn’t placed in Mr. D’s media class. But that didn’t last long. The next school year I had to return to media classes. I was on the newspaper staff and did the morning and afternoon announcements.
Returning to school is a fog now. Nothing stands out about the time except when Tyrone returned as well. He wasn’t able to successfully appeal his suspension. I saw him from the distance down the long hallway. I immediately turned around and ran. I can’t remember how often I saw him after that. But literal fear filled my entire body and I ran so fast up the stairs far away from him.
In schools across America young girls are sexually assaulted, never tell and are shamed by their peers. 1 in 5 girls say they’ve been sexually assaulted at school. Many educators don’t support the victims adequately because they are ill-equipped at handling victims of sexual assaults. There is no special training available in many school districts across the country on how to intervene. Just as we need crisis intervention teams to help us in our lives away from school we need them in schools.
High Schools are not required to report sexual assault information to the government though federally funded colleges are.
Counseling at my local women’s clinic helped me greatly process my sexual assault emotionally, mentally and physically. I had to learn to be safe around men that I didn’t know. By the time I got to college I had definitely dealt with the immediate issues I faced.
Many victims are not able to do that. I urge all of us to watch the teenagers in our lives. I can’t imagine how worst my sexual assault would have been had social media been around for my peers. Kids today have so many tools at their disposal to bully and shame classmates.