Archive for October 26th, 2018

In Their Words: “I was left to pick up the pieces and move on with me life”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

By Tabitha Barr
Social Media Editor

Sexual assault is a hard thing to hear about, but it’s even worse to go through.

For Nichole Alexander, she was taken advantage at a very young time in her life. She was in the fourth grade when she started talking to a boy. He was two grades above her, so their main way of communicating was through email. They were a grade school couple, so it was just playful messages back and forth. He liked her, and having him there “made (her) feel better about (her)self.”

That was until he started saying things that were over the line of innocent and crossing into inappropriate. She remembers one of his messages asking her what color of underwear she was wearing. Because their way of communicating was through email, Nichole’s mother had access to it. Her parents found out about the private messages and immediately sit Nichole down. They told her to stay away from this boy because he was bad news. This was during Thanksgiving break, so she had space away from the situation. When school started back up, the boy still wanted to talk to her. So from then on, their only way of communicating was on the bus. They conveniently rode the same bus, and it just so happened that his mom was their bus driver.

A year went past. They just talked to each other on the bus. Their relationship had gone to just friends and everything seemed fine. But her fifth grade year is when things turned south. On the bus, Nichole was the first to get picked up, and the last one to get off. But this didn’t include her assaulter because he was on the bus as long as his mom was driving it. So that meant there was a lot of bus time where not a lot of people were around.

The boy’s mom was the bus driver and that gave him access to any seat. So when the bus was less crowded, he would come and sit in the seat behind Nichole. On buses, there is this gap between the seat and the window that students can talk to each other through. However, it wasn’t used for talking in this situation, but for something unfathomable.

“He would stick his upper arm in the gap and then reach his lower arm down into my seat where I was sitting,” Nichole said. “He would unbutton my pants, and he would finger me.”

During the series of molestation, he would ask her if it felt good. With tears in her eyes, she would say yes.

“What else can I say? I was so scared,” she said this with a tone in her voice that conveyed more emotions than almost any human can take on.

Part of the reason she went with it was because she had told a couple of her friends. But none of them knew what to do, who to tell or even if they should.

He did this to her for the entire school year. But in the beginning of May, Nichole had grasped enough courage to tell him he needed to stop. She was utterly terrified but she told him that he needs to stop, it’s wrong, it hurts and that she doesn’t like it. After this, he lessened his intensity but he didn’t stop pestering her. He would constantly ask if she had changed mind and would touch her on her thigh to convince her. She remembers shaking, telling him no and praying that the bus driver would quickly get to her house. She was scared everyday to ride that bus and there was no way to escape it.

Exactly one week into sixth grade, she finally told her parents what had been happening to her. That night, her mother called her best friend’s husband, who was an on-duty police officer. He ended up taking Nichole’s statement that night.

The process of pressing charges was started and they went to court for a restraining order against him. Being in court at such a young age was difficult for Nichole because she had to tell everyone what happened. At the end of this, she remembers the judge looking at her attacker and saying “son, you better get an attorney.”

That quote is one that stays with Nichole, because a couple months later, the detective working on the case told her that she was lying. He told her that there was absolutely no way that the situation happened and the case was dropped.

The case being dropped was only part of the fallout, because she could no longer attend therapy for free because she was no longer a “victim”. With therapy costing hundreds of dollars an hour, Nichole was no longer able to attend because her family couldn’t afford it. She was dropped, just like the case had been.

“I was left to pick up the pieces and move on with my life,” she said.

Her attacker wasn’t punished, not through the law, and not through the school.

“Nothing changed,” Nichole said. “Here I was, feeling so lost and broken. I was just trying to put myself back together again.”

The trauma doesn’t stop just because he did. She went through a long period of depression and anxiety. Self-harming was a way of letting out her pain because she had lost sight of her worth. She’s gotten better, but she still suffers with knowing her own self-worth.

Just recently, Nichole shared her story on social media with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. With the events of the Brett Kavanagh hearing, she wanted to help other people realize why sexual assault isn’t reported immediately. To show that someone people know personally, didn’t report when it started happening. When she watched Blasey Ford’s testimony, she saw herself. She saw herself going through everything all over again.

“For so long I kept it to myself,” she said.

But she said that she knows that it’s helped people actually listen and not just argue. Because “this is not a political issue.” Nichole said sexual assault is a human problem that needs to be heard and stopped. For everyone who hasn’t experienced it, she wants them to know that sexual assault really happens and it’s a big deal. She hopes that sharing her story will help those who have gone through similar situations.

She is still here, she has shared her story, and she’s living her life despite her past. Nichole is 18 years old and is currently a freshman at University of Missouri-Kansas City studying, chemistry and pre-med.

In Their Words: “It was their fault, not mine”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

By Emily Fehrman
Social Media Editor

Editor’s note – This story was told to Social Media Editor Emily Fehrman. The subject wanted her story to be told in first person. This is her story as told to Fehrman. Names used in this story are not the real names.

When I was 17, a big part of me disappeared for what felt like an immeasurable amount of time.

I took a chunk of myself and tucked it away just so I wouldn’t have to think about the events that happened that summer. I completely blocked out the fact that I was sexually assaulted, by someone I never thought would hurt me. A friend who was also friends with my then-boyfriend.

It was Friday night, which meant everyone would be out partying, including myself. I always surrounded myself with people who would keep my best interest at heart, or at least I tried to. I never in a million years thought that I would ever be put in an atmosphere that being taken advantage of was even an option.

The whole evening everything was fine. I was around friends, so I took the opportunity to get intoxicated. We weren’t moving parties or doing anything wild, so I thought, why not live a little. Henry, my then-boyfriend, and I were having fun with all our friends, including two of his “best buddies”, John and Patrick.

The night went by in a flash, and before I know it, I’m laying down to sleep in Henry’s bed while he is still at the party downstairs. I decided to go to bed because I was too drunk to function any longer, and literally kept falling asleep on Henry’s shoulder.

I was woken up with a set of hands running up my thighs, and a set of hands keeping my mouth and eyes shut.

I was so drunk there wasn’t much I could do, except try to beg them to stop, cry and pray for it to end. I didn’t know how to stop what was happening, let alone how to figure out who the boys were that were doing this to me. Once the hands were removed from my eyes I thought maybe that signified the end of the torture. But all that was revealed was who my attackers were and that it wasn’t going to end any time soon.

I saw that the two boys that were touching me were John and Patrick. Two people I had never thought would hurt me. They were my friends and they had betrayed me. As they switched places with each other all I could think about was how embarrassed I was, and all the ways I could have prevented this from happening. I could’ve locked the door, maybe I was just too friendly, maybe I shouldn’t have worn a low cut shirt that night, or maybe I shouldn’t have gotten drunk in the first place.

But really, it comes down to the fact that it was nothing I did that made this horrible thing happen to me. It was their fault, not mine. I didn’t ask to be taken advantage of. What it comes down to is when they saw a defenseless, unsuspecting, sleeping girl, and they thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of her.

It felt as though it would never stop. I prayed and prayed that it would end. In that moment, I wished I were dead. They took turns giving oral sex to my limp body, and then the rest is a blur.

I have glimpses of memories every once and awhile of that night. And when I do remember bits and pieces, they are so horrible for me to think about that I get physically and visibly sick.

The next morning, I woke up and they were gone, but Henry was there. Not knowing how to handle the situation, I got up and left. Walking past my rapist on the way out the door. I couldn’t look at them. Even while they were asleep they were still the most terrifying thing out there to me.

The drive was completely silent because what music do you play the morning after you’ve been raped? I had a 20-minute drive home to contemplate the night before and come to terms with what had happened.

I decided I should call Henry and tell him what happened. But before I had even moved to grab my phone it was already ringing, and it was him. Thinking I would pick up the phone to a curious boyfriend wondering where I was, I was shocked to hear such loud screaming on the other end of the phone.

He was screaming things at me I would never wish to repeat to anyone. John had came up with this lie that I had tried to touch him inappropriately. Claiming that in my drunken haze I tried to rape him, but that he had thrown me off and went back to down to the party.

Completely shocked by this I tried to tell Henry that it was the other way around, but he wasn’t having any of it. Called me a liar and said I should go to hell for what I put his friend through. I didn’t tell anyone what happened that night for two years.

During that two years, I blocked everything that had to do with that night away. I broke up with Henry and I stopped hanging out around those people I had thought were my friends. It wasn’t until this last summer that I really came to terms with everything that happened that night. I never filed any charges because I assumed no one would believe me. If the boy who was supposedly in love with me didn’t even believe me over his friends then who would?

In the end, I’d like to say I’m healed and all is forgiven, but it’s not. It’s been two years, but it still feels like it was yesterday. I never thought it would happen to me, until it did.

In Their Words: “I didn’t think they were going to believe me”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

By Tabitha Barr
Opinion Page Editor

Editor’s note – The following story was told on the condition of anonymity. At the request of the survivor, the names have been changed.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It can happen at any age. And it can happen more than once.

Carter’s story doesn’t have one instance of violation, but two different instances with two different assaulters.

The first time happened when Carter was 14 years old. She went to school with Ian and developed a crush on him. He ended up taking that to his advantage. One night, they were hanging out in his truck off the road, hidden from sight. They started making out, but it quickly turned into something much more intense. Ian maneuvered his way on top of Carter, pinned her down, and put his hand down her pants. She didn’t fight back, she just laid there because she didn’t know what to do.

It is common to freeze in these situations because it’s a shocking violation. After everything settled down, Ian ended up dumping her in a church parking lot.

“It was always weird after that, because he didn’t see it as I saw it,” Carter said.

She would see him almost everyday because they went to school together, and there was nothing that can be done to change that. It was uncomfortable to be around him.

The second time she was sexually assaulted is the one that came very close to ending her life. She was 17-years old and was best friends with Nic who she also worked with. They had known each other for about six months and were close. At that time, Carter was in a relationship and thought nothing of her co-worker in a similar way. She did know that he liked her, but she made it clear that nothing would become of it.

One night, Carter went over to Nic’s house to have a drink. The night went on and time had flown to early the next morning.

“I was s— faced,” she said. “I couldn’t move at all. I was so drunk.”

Suddenly, Nic started kissing her and he asked her if she wanted it.

“I told him no, but in that situation, I couldn’t fight back,” she said.

She was so intoxicated that she couldn’t do anything about it. Nic picked her up and took her to the bedroom.

“He threw me on the mattress and he pulled my romper completely off.”

Carter was left in her bra and underwear and completely unable to defend herself.

“He got on top of me and started raping me,” she said.

She couldn’t do anything to stop him. She could only lay there and “take it.”

After a little time had gone past, he got off of her and told her he wanted to switch positions. Carter saw this as her only opportunity to escape and ran for the bathroom, saying she didn’t feel good. She locked herself in the bathroom and immediately texted her then-boyfriend and another friend what happened. Nic came banging on the door, questioning if she was OK, but eventually went back to bed and was waiting for her to come back.

When she could tell he was no longer by the door, she grabbed as many of her possessions as possible and “ran down two flights of stairs, got in a car, and drove home drunk at 3 a.m.”

But the story doesn’t end there. When Carter went back to work and saw him there, that’s when things got more complicated. She pulled another co-worker to the side and told her what had happened. This led to Carter telling her manager about that night and how Nic raped her. The manager asked the questions of “did you promote this kind of behavior?” and “were you drunk?” The questions seemed to be pointing judgment instead of empathy.

Two days later, Carter overdosed on pills.

“They didn’t think I was going to pull through,” she said. “They had me on a ventilator, they had me so sedated I was pretty much in a medically induced coma.”

Her then-boyfriend was actually the one that saved her. He found her and called 911. If he hadn’t been there for her, she would not likely be here today.

She actually lost her job over this. That day, she tried hard to find someone to cover her shift but she finally just said, “f— it. I’m going to be dead in however many hours and I don’t care.”

In the hospital, her parents asked her then-boyfriend and her other friend if they knew why she would do something like this, and that’s when they told them that she had been raped.

She woke up two days later with “an IV in my neck and arms, a catheter in, and cops in my room with an advocate for the domestic violence sexual assault center.”

After Carter was released from the hospital, she was sent to a mental health facility in Topeka. She stayed there for a few days, but was then able to come home.

When she got home, her parents actually tricked her in riding with them to the courthouse.

“They dragged me into the police station,” and had her tell her story to officers.

During this time between that night, she had many people say to her that they didn’t believe her. That she shouldn’t ruin this boy’s life just to get attention. When speaking to the detective, she ended up telling her that she lied. She just didn’t want to look like she was cheating on her current boyfriend and that it was all consensual.

The next day or two, Carter got a call from that detective saying that the district attorney was wanting to press charges against her for a false claim. But she was given a deal that the charges would be dropped, if she was to tell her parents the truth. And so she did.

The whole situation was pushed to the side. Five months later, she ended up telling her parents the truth.

“I didn’t think they were going to believe me,” she said.

It was a big deal because she had been alone in this with no one who knew what really happened.

During the time after, her mental health suffered tremendously.

“I questioned my sanity,” she said. “I didn’t know if I believed myself anymore.”

Her mind was playing tricks on her, denying that it ever even happened. She had a hard time believing that it wasn’t her fault.

Part of the reason she had such a hard time was because there was no legal action against the assailant.

“People would tell me, ‘he doesn’t seem like that kind of guy,’” she said. “He denies that it ever even happened. It’s my word against his. And I know the statistics. I don’t want to be violated all over again just for him to get away with it.

“It’s an unfortunate thing that happened, but I have learned to forgive, not only him, but myself.”

These events have shaped Carter’s life into what it is now. They are gruesome and horrifying.

The statistics are scary. Out of 1000 cases of rape, only 994 perpetrators will walk free. But the conversation has started.

“You just have to hold on,” she said. “It is so hard and I get it. I’ve been at the very bottom. I think about it and I still want to die and I still hate the situation.”

But Carter is now living her life. She is pushing past the huge obstacles of the past and striving for a bright future.

“It is worth it in the end,” she said. “It is worth the struggling, it is worth the crying and wanting to die over. You just have to keep your head up and know that you never are alone.”

In Their Words: “I started screaming for him to stop”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

By Brenna Eller
Editor-In-Chief

Editor’s note – The following story was told on the condition of anonymity. At the request of the survivor, the names have been changed.

Jodi was 15 years old when she was first sexually molested. It was done by her sister’s boyfriend.

Jodi, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend John were downstairs watching a movie and her sister got tired, so she went up to her room.

At some point during the movie, Jodi fell asleep.

“I woke up to him having his hand inside my panties. I was too scared to do anything, so I pretended to still be asleep,” Jodi said, “When he left me alone, I then ‘woke up’ and went to bed. I didn’t say anything to anyone in fear of what they would say.”

Jodi – the wife of a Hutchinson Community College faculty member – didn’t say anything to anyone right after it happened and didn’t want her sister to know. It took her a few years to actually speak up about it, which was because her boyfriend, Steve, at the time said something that triggered the memory.

“We had just gotten in an argument on the phone, he then said something to the effect of, ‘go find a boyfriend like your sister’s, he’s perfect’,” Jodi said.

She was so angry that she finally had the courage to tell someone about her traumatic experience.

“I was scared to death it was finally out of my mouth and someone else knew,” Jodi said. “He ended up telling my mom right away and we didn’t go to authorities.”

However, Jodi’s sister found out and asked if it was true, and when Jodi confirmed it, her sister broke up with John.

It wouldn’t be the last time Jodi experienced a sexual assault.

Jodi was 21 and in college when the second sexual assault happened.

At the time, she was living in an apartment with a roommate. They usually went out, but Jodi and her stayed in that night and were sleeping. A male high school friend of Jodi’s had been out drinking.

“He had been going through a rough time and had been upset that evening,” Jodi said, “He called me after he left the bars and asked if he could come over and talk.”

Jodi agreed to him coming over and talking. When he arrived, they went into her bedroom so they wouldn’t bother her roommate.

“We started talking, and then all of a sudden he had gotten on top of me, held me down, removed my pants and started to have sex with me,” Jodi said.

She couldn’t move, so all she could do was scream while he was raping her.

“I started screaming for him to stop and get off of me,” Jodi said. “I kept shouting ‘no’. He wasn’t listening to me.”

Jodi’s screams woke up her roommate, and she was able to come in and get him off of her. He then ran out of the room and left the apartment.

“She didn’t know what to do for me, so she just sat there with me and we talked and made sure I was OK,” Jodi said.

Again, Jodi didn’t go to the authorities because this time, she was in so much shock that a long-time friend, whom she trusted, would do anything like that to her. It has been 21 years, and she has still only told a few people.

“My parents do not know, just my roommate, my best friend and my husband,” Jodi said.

With today’s society, or any time for that matter, coming forward about sexual assault can be difficult for the victims.

“I feel like I’ll be judged by others, that these happened because I allowed them, that it was my fault I was raped and molested,” Jodi said.