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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Open Letters

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To close our Sexual Assault Awareness Month series, we collected a few personal letters and stories of direct experiences with sexual assault. These stories are all an act of courage, opening up the conversation to a present problem in our community. We’ll let the words speak for themselves.

Ally Dotson ’18:

“Sophomore year, I went to an upperclassman’s new years eve party. We were all having fun until **** ****** put his hand on my knee when we were sitting down. I brushed his hand off of me and tried to laugh it off because I didn’t want to make a scene, but he persisted. He ended up gripping the inside of my thigh so hard it left deep bruises. I was in a room full of people who saw it, but others still don’t believe me. I have to go to school every day and see his awful face in the sports’ poster hanging above a door in the cafeteria. I go through that door every single day and am constantly reminded of what he did to me, and [I’m] left with the shame of being called a liar. I am not doing this for popularity. I am not doing this because “it’s easy”. I’m doing this because I am tired of men abusing women as well their power over them. I’m doing this because I’ve had enough.”

I am not doing this because “it’s easy”. I’m doing this because I am tired of men abusing women as well their power over them.”

— Ally Dotson '18

Lindsey Thomas ’18:

I was a victim of sexual harassment. When I was 16, I was pulled into the office for an emergency meeting with the assistant principal and an on-campus officer. I made my way into the conference room and saw roughly seven other women sitting in a circle with sorrowful expressions as they handed me a stack of papers which stated sexually demeaning posts about me on a porn website with links to all my social media as well as photographs the perpetrator had photoshopped to look “sexy.” The other women in the room were also victims of this man. He had attached links to their profiles as well. The man who did this to me was someone I thought of as a friend. A person I spent time with, someone I saw every day in classes. The only thing I did wrong, was trust him.

But at that time, all I could think was “what did I do?” What did I do to deserve these posts thanking me for the way I dressed at school? Posts encouraging strangers to harrass me or even rape me? It took a long time and a lot of tears to come around to the knowledge that it wasn’t my fault at all. 

I thought somehow it must be my fault.  After that I dressed in very baggy clothes, trying not to draw attention to my body. ”

— Lindsey Thomas '18

According to administrators, since the boy hadn’t done any of the posting at school or during school hours or on school equipment, they really couldn’t punish him. He was given an in school restraining order and advised to write apology letters to the other women and me, which I never received. When we filed a police report we were told what he did was not a crime. How is that possible? How could posting sexually demeaning photos of minors be legal?”

Haley Haverda ’18:

“In my junior year, I was called out of 8th block Musical Theater into my alpha office. There, waiting for me, was my assistant principal, journalism teacher, and another student. I sat down, very nervous and confused, and the first thing I was told was “You’re not in trouble.” I hadn’t done anything wrong, but soon I would be emotionally troubled when I would have to find out that one of my classmates, someone I trusted, someone I had once called my friend, had posted my personal information on an adult website, encouraging others to contact and harass me. The office had me call my parents and say in front of the assistant principal, “Hi Dad, something happened. I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment online.” It was all extremely overwhelming and humiliating, but the school told me they were in contact with the police and taking care of it. The offender was pulled from the class we shared, and they promised me I wouldn’t have to see him again. They promised me if he even so much as looked at me, or any of the other girls, action would be taken. My assistant principal promised me closure, that I would be safe and comfortable, and that they were all on my side.

Not even a week later, my harasser was switched into my AP Psychology class. As I write this, I still get the same feelings I did when he walked into my class announcing that he had gotten a schedule change. I felt exposed, vulnerable, and completely unsafe. I went straight to my alpha office after class and alerted my assistant principal that a mistake had been made: my harasser was in my class. The assistant principal looked at me and told me something I will never forget: “Because he is a senior we can’t deny him accommodations.” Since they had already switched him out of one AP Psychology class, they wouldn’t do it again. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience the pervert, of course. I tried to explain to them that I was uncomfortable, that they promised my safety. I wanted to switch out of the class, but in the end, I wouldn’t let them think that was an acceptable solution by compromising my dignity. I went to class every orange day, and I endured the feelings. I sat everyday in my seat second row and felt his eyes on me from where he sat in the back of the room. I sat in my seat until the bell rang so I didn’t have to stand near him at the door. I alerted my friend through understood eye contact to see if it was safe for me to get up and go to the bathroom when he wasn’t looking at me walking. My friend stood between me and the walkway when the class had to turn in our work.

We wouldn’t want to inconvenience the pervert, of course.”

— Haley Haverda '18

So often do the perpetrators get off. So often are the boys excused for their actions because “boys will be boys.” This was not the first time I have felt unsafe in my school because of uncontrolled boys, but it was the first time that the school didn’t make sure I was okay. They said that he knew not to look at or interact with me, and that if anything happened they would take care of it. Something already did happen, he already succeeded, and he already knew he wasn’t supposed to behave in the ways he did. It might not seem like the worst thing to happen to someone, and I know it isn’t, but I will never forget the fact that my harasser’s  “accommodations” were put above my own feelings, and I will never forget what it was like to sit in that classroom with him knowing things he thought about me, things he wanted to happen to me. I will never forget feeling dismissed at the fact that the school wouldn’t want to upset my sexual harasser over keeping me safe.”

Anonymous:

“There are events early in my high school years that I do not like thinking on, pieces of my story that bring me to a place of numbness and anxiety that I do not like to relive. I’m doing so now because I recognize that through sharing this narrative, my words have the potential to empower other young people who have been the victims of sexual harassment and help them to know that they are not alone.

I’m afraid I don’t know how to start. I’m afraid it won’t be eloquent, that it will not go in order, because arranging these bits and pieces into something coherent is a task I’ve been avoiding for some time.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been catcalled by boys and men in grocery stores, in swimming pools, in restaurants, in my neighborhood, within school walls, and even in my own church, nor do I especially wish to try. I can’t remember all the faces of adults in my life, the majority of them women — including my mother, intending no harm — who have told me that I should be happy for being so ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ that I attract the unwavering gazes of strangers. I gave up trying to tell them that these stares make my heart race not out of giddiness or joy but out of fear, that they make my face burn not from blushing but from rage, that they make give my stomach not butterflies but nausea. People do not talk about how violating it can feel when one catches someone looking them up and down appraisingly, and when that person does not avert their gaze when caught, as though their doing so is entirely acceptable. Our culture does not present this as invasive.

One ordeal, the summer before ninth grade, stands out in greater detail than I would prefer. I went to swim at Bull Creek with my family, when the water was high and the sun was hot, and had a lovely time splashing around and watching minnows and turtles, when a man sitting up on a ledge, fishing under the overpass, initiated conversation with my mom. He had a bottle of coke sitting held between his knees, and as they talked idly about the weather, the cap dropped into the water below him. As my mom reached for it and handed it back up to him, he said, “I was hoping to get your little sister over there to bend over so I could see the butt of that cute little bathing suit.”

He was referring to me. I was fourteen. He appeared to be in his mid-fifties. We went promptly home. I cried, and threw the swimsuit away. Before then, I had never had a reason to be uncomfortable at the beach or the creek or the pool — they were harmless places of play, until that man had forced unwanted sexuality onto my barely-teenage body. My family has never since spoken of this.

I dated my first boyfriend for a year and a half. He was two years older than me, and though this wasn’t a problem during our relationship, it proved to be disastrous afterward. When I tried to break up with him, he refused — following me from class to class against my wishes, waiting by doors for me to come out, having his upperclassmen friends leave threatening voicemails and text messages from blocked phone numbers — and I thought it would end when I took the issue to school administration. Instead, I was told by a faculty member, “I understand this is hard, but what did you do to make this happen?” Instead of stopping him from coming near my classes, I was told to stay away from his, which I had not been loitering around to begin with.

Even after the humiliation of that event had faded, harassment in the halls has continued to be a fairly regular problem for me. I have frequently been catcalled on my way through the hall between Java City and the cafeteria, including four times this year by people I do not know well enough to identify. On one instance, while walking to the bathroom during a class, a group of boys standing in the hall taunted me, saying “Hey, little girl, come here, where’re you going so fast?” I tried ignoring them, until one threw a crumpled piece of paper at my back. I flipped my middle finger in their direction, hoping that responding would convince them I was not interested while still preserving my dignity, and they started following. I remember half-running back to my class, followed by chants of, “Do you show your mother that finger, little girl? Why’re you running?”

The most recent incident occurred inside the cafeteria doors. My friends and I sat against the wall facing two of the doors during lunch, talking, laughing, eating, minding our own business. The doors were, of course, locked, and a group of boys stood outside knocking to get in. As this happened before the new regulations regarding locked doors, I walked over to let them in. Through the glass, one of the boys made a grand show of looking me up and down before thrusting his hips at me while his friends jeered at me. I walked away without letting them in and heard curses muttered at my back. The boys continued to knock for several minutes before eventually giving up and walking to another door. The hall monitor stationed nearest saw this happened and did nothing but look away when I met her gaze.

It no longer makes me angry, it only makes me feel ashamed, because I know that so long as things stay the same, my anger will change nothing. ”

— Anonymous

What scares me about all of this is that I have grown numb. The culture I live in, as wonderful of a culture as it is in many aspects, has succeeded in teaching me to be complacent — even to the point that writing this account makes me feel as though I am in the wrong for bringing attention to something so grim, even if in doing so, I know I am helping those who come after me. It’s hard for me to find the energy to take a stand, but I hope that my doing so through this piece will inspire the rest of you struggling silently to do so as well. Refuse to feel shame, refuse to become apathetic, and if enough of us do, someone will have to start listening.” 

Miranda Jaramillo-Cuevas ’18:

When I think about that day, there [are so many] things I would do differently; each day I think about it, adding to the possibilities of what I could have said, or done, or how I could have reacted differently. The only thing that has become clearer to me this day is that it wasn’t my fault and it never will be. Brushy Creek MUD’s community was one that I grew up in and knew very well. My favorite pool to work at was Creekside Pool because of the diving boards and sunny, youthful atmosphere. I can’t bear the thought of what happened there now. I can’t bear the idea of those boards because of what he did three times in that shift.

I was closing up the pool with a crew of guys and myself. It was going to be one of the better shifts; we had no managers lurking around so we could goof off after closing duties and I was there to host a Frozen themed pool party in the middle of summer. We were closing up the pool with time left over so we started doing flips on the high dive.

Thrilled by high flips and plans to hang out with friends after my shift, I started up the ladder to hop out and do another trick when it began. He went underwater right next to me, head in line with my lower right side body, and the prodding began. Prodding turned into groping and groping turned into me questioning whether what was going on was actually going on.

“Oh, he must’ve just…. He probably couldn’t see, he must’ve gotten water in his goggles and misplaced his hands on his way to the ladder.. Was he wearing goggles? Why is he still down there? And why is his hand still there? This is weird. I’m getting out”.

My first instinct was to look at it as an accident; surely he didn’t mean to do that. It didn’t matter what my brain wanted to believe, whether he could see or not. All I knew was that no one else had seen. The back of my mind knew exactly what my confused self didn’t want to admit. This P.O.S. just groped me.

The guy was very quiet, very awkward. He had disgusting acne and the look of a total creep. I worked with him only two times before with no incident, and lifeguard office small-talk had led me to find out he went to Round Rock High School and was one of the few 15-year-olds in the whole aquatics department.

I went in the office to dry off and gather my thoughts, which were in shambles.

“Surely what just happened didn’t happen right? This is work?”

I started getting ready to close the pool but all that was left for me to do was check the pool temperatures and tidy up the office while the guys I was working with took care of the pool’s actual cleaning and storing equipment. Aside from the pig, I trusted the other three guys on my crew that shift, just not enough.

I didn’t feel like I was in an unsafe environment because it was all guys. In fact, I didn’t think anything of it until after working with that low life. Never had I felt so cornered, as though I couldn’t talk to the other guys about what was going on but somewhere between the shock and the embarrassment came the thought,

“He’s a guy and I’m the only girl here. I’m about to be labeled a drama queen.”  

My unwillingness to accept that I was in this situation made me want to excuse what he was doing as if it wasn’t intentional, mostly because I didn’t want to think that anyone would actually do anything so f****** repulsive. I felt like a plot of land whose fence some idiot had climbed over because he wanted to take a crap in it just for funsies. A violation.

I went into a corner of the office after doing the pool temperatures. I was checking my phone, and at that point, three out of five of us were waiting for the okay to leave, but one of us was waiting for his chance to strike again… and he did. There was no mistaking this for anything other than what it was.

See all I was doing was checking my phone when this sicko set his things down next to me, brushing his backpack to my backside and making stops with his hands on the way, everyone on the crew in the office [knew] as this was happening.

“How could nobody see that? His face creeps me out.”

I really wanted someone to notice.

His entire presence and the air around him disgusted me, I felt sick and I had to sit down.

You know that feeling you get when you know someone is staring at you and their stare is burning a hole into you? Not only did his stare make my skin crawl, but I started to hate him for making me feel like I wanted to vanish into thin air.

One by one we filed out of the office. I looked longingly at my co-workers leaving in their cars with their licenses and their carelessness.

“Hey, so do you want to hang out sometime?”

He got really close, snaking his arm around my waist, completely unwelcome. I was about to hit a breaking point when I called my mom to ask how close she was. I stayed on the phone with her until she pulled up. When I was finally in my mom’s car, I contemplated never coming back.

It was his last shift. I immediately texted a female shift lead and friend that I trusted. I told her everything. Sadly, another co-worker had come to her about the same guy. She and I would both find solace in the fact that we went to the same person and would spend time pondering alternatives, had we not talked to the same girl.

They asked me to go in and talk to the HR director but I decided I was not going to have that conversation with the person who allowed for that scumbag to be hired. The way I handled it in the moment embarrassed me to no end and the more I thought about it, the more I felt he’d tainted my reality with his perverseness. My thoughts for weeks would be clouded with the faces of regulars and their kids and how close he had possibly been to all of them. His stupid, creepy, and invasive stare didn’t fail to make my hair stick and sink my stomach into itself. It only made me feel worse thinking it was on anyone as unsuspecting as myself prior to all of this. It should have never even happened in the first place. I didn’t have it in me to talk to anyone about it. I never went in to talk with the Human Resources office because I couldn’t even believe that this kid was only going to be fired and hold no accountability for his actions because of his age of 15. Nothing else happened. He was just fired. I’d already cried and the few who knew tried making me feel better about it, not knowing I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow and just forget about it. I quit soon after and that’s that.

About the Writers
Haley Haverda, Reporter

Hi, my name is Haley :) I like cats, candy, writing, Netflix, and books. This is my fourth year in Journalism,...

Lindsey Thomas, Men's Sports Editor

I enjoy writing about sports and taking photos. My talents include binge watching Netflix, listening...

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