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.