After the Assaults

[dropcap style=”square”]N[/dropcap]either Mary*, Greg*, Brenda,* nor Shannon* recognized the incidents as sexual assault when they initially occurred. For Mary*, viewing rape storylines in TV shows caused her to realize that she had been raped.

“I keep getting flashbacks of it, and I’m really into cop shows so it hit me, all the different stories they have about rapes, and I was like  ‘Oh my gosh, that one sounds just like mine,’” Mary* said. “It was so scary–something I didn’t think was rape, and neither did the girl on the TV show, and I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I was raped.’”

Greg*, Shannon*, and Brenda* also only recognized the gravity of the incidents in retrospect. At the time the incidents occurred, Shannon* said neither she nor the perpetrators considered them to be sexual assault. Looking back, her views, and those of the boys involved, have changed.

“The hook-ups involved intoxication a lot of the time, so you’re not really thinking about it as sexual assault,” Shannon* said. “I don’t think [the perpetrators] considered it to be assault either, but maybe in hindsight, I think they feel guilty and they do consider it to be assault.”

Unlike Greg*, Mary*, Brenda*, and Shannon*, Salim recognized immediately that she had been sexually assaulted, but only chose to report it two years later when she entered a serious relationship. Salim wanted to be able to explain to her boyfriend that because of the lasting impact of her assault, she was not comfortable engaging in certain activities. She also felt that keeping the assault secret was a burden.

Salim reported the incident through her school administration, which she described as “a smooth  process.”

“They have been very understanding and continued to help me any way I need,” Salim said.

Shannon*, Greg*, Mary*, and *Brenda did not formally report the assaults, primarily to avoid causing conflict and negatively impacting their families.

“Especially because of my parents’ reputation and their jobs and businesses, if people found out it would just be really bad,” Mary* said. “I didn’t want that to happen to them, so I just kind of kept it to myself and my friends.”

Even three years later, the rape has had a lasting impact on Mary’s* attitude toward men.

“It’s definitely affected me on how I view guys and men in general,” Mary* said. “No matter how nice they are, they could literally twist or snap in a second.”

Since the rape, Mary* has made active efforts to avoid contact with her rapist. Shannon* said she “awkwardly” passes boys in the school hallways who have sexually assaulted or harassed her, and they share a mutual understanding that what happened between them is not to be acknowledged. Salim and Greg* both avoid contact with their perpetrators–Greg* does so informally with the help of his friends, while Salim does so by having LAHS administration create her course schedule specifically so that it does not match her perpetrator’s.

Salim stands by her decision to report the sexual assault to school administration but not pursue it in court, as she felt the legal process would have been lengthy. She encourages other survivors to report incidents to school administration.

At first I didn’t think that there was anything I could do or anyone else could do to make it better, but I think that every little thing like making sure that our classes aren’t together, things as small as that, make a big difference,” Salim said.

Examining Consent Education