Sharmeen C., 18, MI,
There is an elephant in the room, not just one room but in every room of almost every high school and college
campus in the United States. Sexual harassment, assault and abuse is one of the most relevant yet under addressed
issues facing today’s teens. How can people seek help when everything about this epidemic is deemed so risqué that
the mention of the word “sex” sends listeners running for the hills? Here are the facts:
● About 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have been raped during their
● Only 16% of all rapes were reported to law enforcement
● About 35% of women who were raped as minors also were raped as adults, compared to 14% of women
without an early rape history.
● 28% of male rape victims were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
● Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6
boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Source: The U.S. Department of Justice.
Still don’t think this problem hits close to home? Picture this. You are that one in four, you are the statistic.
It’s a Friday night, your friends are outside, people you know, some you’ve met before. You leave, not a second
thought. You get in the car, you’re laughing, it’s about to be one good night. You’re there, someone’s backyard, logs
around the fire, the drinking starts, the smoking follows. You have somewhere to be in the morning, so you shy
away from it, or maybe you don’t, maybe you drink all your worries away because tonight is a good night, tonight is
(Click Read More to continue)
Either way the night progresses, some of the others seem to be doing more than just drinking and smoking, but you
don’t pay it any mind, after all, it’s not you that is doing it, you are just here for a good time. Someone taps your
-Hey what’s going on? hahah (you’re not drunk enough to consider this an option, this incites the short laugh at the
end of the question)
-Hey….lets take a walk… It’s a pretty night, have you seen the woods this way
-Yeah okay (the party’s winding down anyway, might as well take a stroll, this guy’s familiar, it’s a good night, your
You walk. And walk and walk and walk. The night is pretty, he was right. The stars are out, there’s a warm breeze.
The trees are endless, when was the last time you just took a walk anyway? Such a peaceful moment.
-Come here sweetheart
-I said come here.
Nothing that comes next will be sweet. One minute you’re looking up, the next you’re getting shoved, down,
towards the ground. You’re stunned.
-What the hell? Let me go.
You push him off just enough to not get on the ground, before you can think of anything else, he has you. You’re
up against one of those endless trees, arms swallowing you. You’re pushing against this laden force. His arms feel
like lead weighing you down.
-Stop...stop! Help! Help me somebody help me!
You could’ve said it a million times, you screamed it at least a thousand, no one can hear you. Some walk, how
long had you been walking?
It’s happening, you’ve never even wanted this with someone you actually liked before. You are just sixteen. How
did this happen? You’re numb, you’re out of your body, it’s like you can see it happening, you want to stretch out and
save yourself, but you can’t. You just stand there and watch.
It’s over. You feel a force lift you up, you are hoisted over a shoulder, carried like a dead body the way you came
so long ago. How long? How does nobody know of your absence? How long? You are set down. On a tree, a log
you assume, you feel the fire. You are numb.
-Hey...man….hahaha think I just got raped hahahaha
What did he just say? Who is he talking to? Why is he laughing? Why are you still here. You lay there until your
friend leaves, you are just drunk and passed out she assumes.
It’s Monday now. You’re screwed at home, you didn’t go home for a couple days. Your friend approaches you.
-I heard what happened, hahah didn’t know he had a shot
-I was just really drunk. (Don’t let him find out. This is embarrassing enough, don’t let him look at you like that).
Anyone in this situation should follow the steps every Sex Ed class ever has taught, right? Go to a trusted adult,
your counselor, your teacher, perhaps the authorities. They are here to help. They have all the answers. They are
your friends. Why are you scared? This hypothetical version of you is so afraid to say what really happened, but
You finally build up the courage to go. To get help. You cry your eyes out to a counselor. You tell her, every detail,
every awful moment, every painful sound and sight. You think it will just stay between the two of you, but it
You are shocked to find out other adults would have to be informed.
Your official counselor is notified.
You want to learn more about pressing charges so, together, you tell the school cop. You are mortified. You want to
The group of adults encourage you to tell your parents.
You really don’t think they will understand. Especially your dad.
In case you decide to take any irrational actions, it’s for your own good, they say. They believe you need support
both in and outside of school. They send daily passes for you to come down to the office. You finally decide that
you will tell your mom, and they follow-up with her as well.
Things don’t get better, you feel worse. You feel like it’s still your fault.
Days, weeks, months, years go by. The shame stays.
You are crying, you are alone. You’re in the school bathroom trying to calm down before you have to go back to
class. A girl walks in.
-Are you okay?
-Yeah, I’m fine, thank you.
-You’re not okay do you want me to get someone?
You might as well give in now, there’s no way to talk yourself into sanity with tear stained eyes on the floor of a
questionable school bathroom. You tell her the name of a teacher you think would be least difficult. Minutes pass,
you’re alone again. The calm returns to you and you feel ashamed, someone saw that. You’re interrupted-
-Hey-what’s wrong, get up come here sweetheart.
-I- I’m not okay.
-Just let it out, it’s okay just let it out, you can explain later.
So that’s what you do, you cry until your eyes won’t let you anymore and then in broken language you try and catch
her up on the last two years of your life. With words you’ve never heard before she comforts you
- It isn’t your fault.
She tells you that she loves you and that you are important. It’s been two years, but you finally feel like speaking
out has helped something. You feel at peace, even just for a minute, you feel loved, you feel important. You feel like
everything she tells you are, because you are.
This teacher could have helped you just the same two years prior if you hadn’t kept this to yourself. This teacher
does not have to be restricted to one human being, there are numerous ways to get help. Unfortunately, we often
don’t know where to look.
It will surprise you tremendously how many people really do care. You can find love even in a stranger’s words
Do not be discouraged by one bad reaction, or by the incident itself. There is nothing that can be said to further
drive home the point that speaking out is important. There are many different avenues to get the help that will begin
your healing process.
You learn from the good and the bad. You learn that you are important and you learn that not everyone is able to
understand the depth of what actually took place that day.
You must advocate for yourself. You must realize that you are not alone. It does not matter what outlet you
choose, as long as you choose an outlet.
All teachers, counselors, administrators, social workers, and many other adults that work closely with kids are
mandated by law to report any and all child abuse or neglect. If you don’t think you are prepared to discuss your
story with someone at your school and you want to stay anonymous there are a variety of options available.
If it happens to someone near you or even to yourself, fight every urge to hide away in a corner and forget it. It is
not your fault.
The more that it is spoken about, the less likely you, your friend, or your school is to be a part of the statistics.
Take a stand to stop sexual assault in your community and in communities throughout the country. It’s time to
speak up, get help, educate and make a change.