Jane’s fear became Anna’s reality––sexual misconduct is not handled how victims want

June 3, 2020

“He got on top of me and was trying to hook up with me. I said ‘No, no, I don’t want to.’ He’s feeling me up and I said ‘No, you can’t put your hands in my pants. Stop.’ He put my hands down his pants and tried to make me give him a hand job and tried to make me suck his dick,” Anna, a TUHSD senior whose name has been changed for anonymity, said. 

When Anna was a freshman, she was sexually assaulted by a family friend while on a Labor Day beach trip. Her parents found out the next morning and decided not to press charges but severed ties with their friends. All Anna wanted to do was forget the incident and move on. However, psychologically changed from the incident, Anna fell into a rocky pattern that led to skipping classes, panic attacks and anorexia. She dealt with these issues personally, refraining from telling her friends and parents what she was going through. Eventually, one of her teachers noticed she rarely attended class and her grade was suffering as a result. Out of concern, they notified her school counselor who sat down with Anna to find out what was going on.

“I don’t think they were expecting what I was going to say. I told my counselor what happened and she was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to call the police,’” Anna said. 

Audrey Hettleman

Before talking to her counselor, Anna was unaware of the district policy that requires staff to notify authorities if a student was harmed or is planning to harm themselves or another individual. 

“It makes sense that they had to call the cops, but if I had known that that was going to happen I wouldn’t have talked to [my counselor],” Anna said.

“if I had known that that was going to happen I wouldn’t have talked to [my counselor],”

— Anna

From there, the investigation escalated and Anna was required to be interviewed by a private investigator in a conference room at school. Later, her and her parents had to be questioned in an interrogation room at a local police station. Simultaneously, her parents encouraged her to go to therapy, and she had weekly weigh-ins with her doctor to address her eating disorder. Anna was disappointed that she could no longer deal with her long-term issues on her own and was uncomfortable with the involvement of other people. Although she was going through the motions of mentally healing from her attack, she was motivated by the prospect of therapy and weigh-ins being over rather than recovery. 

While some victims of sexual assault may want to involve their school administrators for a variety of reasons, including ensuring their own safety, others like Anna and Jane prefer to put the incident behind them and work within themselves to avoid dramatic life changes. The possibility of escalating the situation beyond what she felt comfortable with and the fear that she may be worse-off prevented Jane from reporting her experiences with sexual misconduct.

“I don’t think I would have told admin because getting the school involved is a whole different story. It comes with a lot of drama and embarrassment and telling someone that you don’t know is probably really hard,” Jane said. “And then [the perpetrator] gets in trouble, not only with their family…but if they’re in trouble at school, they receive an in-school suspension or it goes on their record, then I’d feel responsible for a lot more than I should feel responsible for. I’d feel worse.”

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