** For the sake of privacy, no names will be revealed in this article
I grew up in a wealthy and sheltered community, one with minimal exposure to crime, terrorism, sexism, or racism. As a result, high school was certainly rough, having to hear and see “foreign” dangers come to life. Until I was a freshman at Skyline High School, sexual assault was something I didn’t quite understand, or rather, treated as something far away from home. I associated it with communities lacking in education and funding; I couldn’t fathom the idea of it happening around me. Until freshman year.
In early 2015, there was rumor of a gang rape going around school. Apparently, as I have come to learn three years later in 2018, two members of our football team had assaulted a junior earlier in the school year. One of the boys was her own boyfriend, and the other was a friend of his. The attackers pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and were forced to leave the school.
But that isn’t the story we heard at school. We were all told a twisted tale of a girl who threw herself upon two boys, who lied about being raped, effectively forcing them to leave. We were told these boys were innocent, since they had their coaches’ and teammates’ support, and they went on to finish their education and graduate from a different high school.
You can imagine what a reality check this was for me, a girl who had never been exposed to any kind of sexual violence before. I was experiencing the complications of gender politics, of the timeless patriarchal battle between victim and attacker. I was shocked but ultimately, we all moved on and we really thought the story had ended there.
Flash forward to three years later, when I had graduated high school and started college. I was walking out of my Astronomy class and saw my phone blowing up with my friends’ reactions to the following headline: “Sisters sue Issaquah school district for the harassment they endured after rape”
What? Wasn’t that over years ago?
I soon realized this story was so much more disturbing than I could have ever imagined. It was revealed that the victim of the assault had been verbally and emotionally abused, blamed for dooming the football team by kicking out two of its star players. Her home was egged, TP’d, even firebombed. Kids at school were calling her “slut” and bullying her. The worst part? The school had put little to no effort in investigating the issue and addressing it. In fact, documents were recently exposed showing that the school’s authorities intentionally hid the football players’ sexual assault protection order from other high schools and colleges. The school will not comment as to why this happened.
It hurt hearing about a gang rape happening on campus all those years ago. But hearing this hurt so much more. For over three years, basically the entirety of my high school education, this was being kept from other schools, students, and parents. A girl, a classmate, had been abused and bullied and none of us knew her story because no one was willing to listen. Neither the students of the school, who were so hasty to spread rumors, nor the Skyline High School authorities who had the power to investigate further. I’m not bashing on my school, or my classmates, but I’m bashing on a system where we so easily dismiss the victim’s claims for the sake of convenience or reputation. We still live in a world where girls are afraid to come forward with their stories, and it shouldn’t be that way anymore. We should be there for each other, to listen and learn, to educate and serve justice where it is due.
A lot of damage from the last three years was recently uncovered, but the point is that we are talking about it now. It’s a good reminder that whatever legal action happens today, doesn’t change the hurt and the pain the victim went through back then. It’s a reminder that we need to start following a moral compass untouched by politics, reputation, or stereotypes. We have to prioritize the victim. Whether it’s an issue of national importance, like the Kavanaugh case, or a local incident like that of my high school, we have to stop protecting rape culture, no matter what it does to the reputation of a person, a school, or a community.