Shannon*, an MVHS senior, described sexual harassment at parties as “a really common thing.”
“It’s something I’ve experienced, and I feel like almost every girl’s experienced,” Shannon* said, “just because it’s acceptable for guys to make inappropriate moves and get mad at you for not reciprocating, and for people to pressure other people into doing things.”
Another senior, Brenda*, confirmed the nature of house party culture. According to Brenda*, local house parties occur every weekend, usually on both Friday and Saturday nights. She said she attends them about every other week, and although marijuana and alcohol are the only substances present at parties she has attended, party-goers sometimes consume other substances beforehand.
Shannon* has had at least three experiences with sexual assault and harassment at house parties during which intoxication was a factor.
“I’ve had more than one guy try and physically force a blow job, like when making out they physically try and force you downwards,” Shannon* said. “I’ve had a guy who wouldn’t use physical force, but they wouldn’t let the idea of sex or blow jobs go.”
Brenda* has also experienced sexual assault while under the influence of alcohol, and both she and Shannon* said they felt accountable afterwards .
“It wasn’t taken as sexual assault to the other person because I think they thought that because I was intoxicated, I was flirty,” Brenda* said. “Obviously, in the morning I really regretted it and felt that it was partially my fault because I drank.”
According to Brenda, instances like the one she experienced, in which girls engage in sexual activities while intoxicated, are common but rarely regarded as sexual assault. Due to the pervasiveness of these instances, Shannon* has felt that her experiences do not warrant complaint.
“You tell yourself it doesn’t matter–this happens to everyone, so you can’t let it affect you,” Shannon* said. “[Those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment] feel like they can’t care about it because people will just be like ‘that happens to everyone, suck it up.’”
While Shannon* and Brenda’s* experiences with sexual assault and harassment have been influenced by alcohol, MVHS students Mary* and Greg* have been assaulted while both they and the perpetrators were sober.
Mary*, a junior, was raped in eighth grade by her then-boyfriend, a sophomore at MVHS at the time. More recently, earlier this year, junior Greg* agreed to hang out at the house of a classmate who he knew was romantically interested in him. As the two were talking, the other boy began to touch Greg* under his pants and became increasingly “aggressive.”
“I told him no, he made a couple of advances, and he kept going further and further,” Greg* said. “After a while, I started feeling less comfortable and more just violated.”
In eighth grade, while Mary* was at her boyfriend’s house with plans to watch a movie, he persistently pressured her to have sex.
“I was telling him ‘No, I’m not ready,’ and he respected it at first, but then the night went on a little bit, and he became more angry. He grabbed me and pulled me into his room and forced me to undress,” Mary* said. “It was so hard for me to physically fight him back because I felt emotionally paralyzed.”
Thara Salim, a senior at LAHS, described a similar feeling of paralysis when she was sexually assaulted. Three years ago, during seventh period, Salim and her perpetrator, both freshmen at the time, were walking through the halls. As they passed the bathroom, he grabbed her and pulled her into the handicapped stall, forcing her up against the wall.
“It went from kissing, to trying to take off my clothes, to putting me on the ground, to dry humping me until he ejaculated,” Salim said. “And then he left, and I was just there in the bathroom on the ground without any clothes on. I guess I could have called for help or something, but I was in shock the entire time.”