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Breaking the silence

Junior girls share their stories about sexual assault

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Solo cups, ping pong balls, empty handles of vodka and drunk bodies of 20-something-year-olds littered the living room apartment. The once lively mood of the party had lulled into a quiet daze as 2:00 a.m. crept by. Inside a nearby bedroom, 16-year-old junior Jessica* laid curled up on a bed, asleep.

The door crept open. Jessica’s 23-year-old coworker, Trevor stumbled into his bedroom. He slid beside her, making himself comfortable under the crumpled sheets. The first thing Jessica said she remembered was waking up to Trevor forcing his hand into her jeans and touching her. She froze.

“I was very terrified,” Jessica said. “That’s never happened to me before, so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”

She started to panic. Scenarios ran through her head. Jessica said she knew everyone at the party had either left or laid passed out in the living room. Nobody could help her. Nobody knew what was going on.

Still faking sleep, she tried to roll over and push him off. But he pulled her back to him every time, she said.

“He was very aggressive,” Jessica said. “But he never said anything. He just kept pulling me back.”

Jessica said she doesn’t remember how exactly she got out. But after pushing him off five times, she was able to pry herself away.

“I did eventually get off the bed and out into the living room,” Jessica said. “I wasn’t comfortable enough to even stay on the bedroom floor.”

After waking up the next morning, Jessica was filled with disgust. She remembered her friend Alexis, who said to call her if she got drunk.

I was very terrified. That’s never happened to me before, so I didn’t know what to do.”

— Jessica, 11

Alexis said she stayed up waiting anxiously by her phone, ready to take Jessica home if needed. But when Matthew, a trusted friend at the party, called and reassured her that Jessica was fine, Alexis went to bed.

“[Jessica] said she wanted to go home, but that she didn’t want to get caught by her mom,” Alexis said. “So she stayed at the party.”

After putting Jessica to bed, Matthew left the party. He said that he thought to take her home, but ultimately decided to let her sleep.

“I didn’t want her to stay,” Matthew said. “But I was thinking that Trevor would take care of her like any good person would. I hoped that he would do that.”

In the days following the assault, Jessica felt violated. The memory of that night plagued every thought. She felt unsafe, and terrified at the thought of seeing Trevor again.

She started to close herself off from her friends. Alexis noticed.

“She was always super sad, she didn’t really eat,” Alexis said. “When she was by herself, you could tell she was really distraught about it.”

Soon, Jessica decided to tell Alexis about the assault.

“I was worried for Jessica,” Alexis said. “I’m just glad she told me.”

Alexis said she encouraged Jessica to tell her supervisors at work about what happened. But when she did, they dismissed her concerns.

“Since they didn’t really have a lot of proof, they didn’t do anything. They kind of just gave him a warning,” Jessica said.

After this, Jessica said she felt discouraged from reporting the incident further. She didn’t think her counselors at school would know what to say or do — and feared they’d “get involved” when she didn’t want them to. And she didn’t go to the police, thinking that because Trevor didn’t have sex with her, it wasn’t as “serious” anyway. So she kept quiet.

“I didn’t really want to talk to anybody. I wanted to be isolated because I didn’t know what to say to people if they asked me [what happened],” Jessica said. “I kept getting asked if I was okay. I was trying to push them away, push the issue away.”

Three days after the assault, Jessica and Trevor had a shift together. When he came in for a hug, Jessica shifted away.

“I was shocked. I was uncomfortable,” Jessica said. “I worked just about the same shifts as him on the weekends, and he would always try to talk to me as if he didn’t know what happened.”

At work, he would try everything he could to talk to her. He’d ask why she was acting weird, as if he didn’t do anything to her.

“Some days, he would try to get on a different rotation and have the same break as me so he could talk to me,” Jessica said.

Alexis said she remembers how Jessica “stiffened up” nervously every time Trevor came near.

I kept saying ‘no,’ and ‘stop,’ but he just ignored it.”

— Sarah, 11

Jessica said that if he would come into the break room, she’d leave. If he came out, she’d go back in. If he passed by an area, she would hide in the bathroom until he left.

“I was afraid that if he knew that I said something about it that he would try to do something to me,” Jessica said.

One day she got a text from him, asking her about the rumors going around at work.

“He didn’t threaten me individually because he didn’t even know I said something,” Jessica said. “He just said he wanted to find them, and whenever he found out who it was, he was going to finish them. I know he would actually hurt somebody.”

And as more people talked, she said Trevor got more paranoid.

“He kept threatening to hurt whoever said something about it,” Jessica said. “I was afraid he was going to try and hurt me.”

• • •

When Jessica’s friend Sarah got hired at her work, Trevor was her supervisor too. And Sarah never felt comfortable around him.

He acted “off,” always persistent about hanging out one on one or spending time together at his apartment alone. He refused to take no for an answer, so Sarah came up with countless excuses to avoid hanging out. But since he was her superior, she didn’t know what would happen if she spoke up.

One day, she was home alone when she got a text from him. He said he just got off work, and that he wanted to come over and talk to her about something. She finally gave in.

“I was like, ‘Fine, you know what you’ve asked enough,’” Sarah said. “‘I just want to get whatever you want to talk about out of the way.’”

As soon as he came through the door, Sarah said Trevor started acting suggestively — flirting with her, touching her, and kissing her.

When she went upstairs into her room to grab something, Trevor followed. As he crept through the threshold, he shut the door behind him. Once inside, Trevor undressed Sarah and raped her.

When it was all over, Sarah sat at the end of her bed, stunned. He asked if she was okay, as if nothing happened.

“I kept staying ‘no,’ and ‘stop,’ but he just ignored it,” Sarah said.

He didn’t listen to her. She was a virgin at the time, and he took that from her.”

— Jessica, 11

Soon after Trevor left, she went to the police. Then she told Jessica what happened.

“He didn’t listen to her,” Jessica said. “She was a virgin at the time. And he took that from her.”

While most of her coworkers stood up for Sarah, some close friends of Trevor stood up for him.

“People were taking sides on who they thought actually was the victim. They don’t believe that it was his fault in any way,” Jessica said. “So they took his side over hers. They were just like, ‘Oh, she’s just a 16-year-old girl. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It was probably her fault.’”

Jessica told Sarah that she was also sexually assaulted by Trevor, but that she never reported it. Sarah urged her to go to the police with her and make a statement.

“I told her that I had [told the police] and that she should speak up because it’s not okay for people to go around getting away with that,” Sarah said.

Jessica hadn’t yet told her mom about what happened at that party last December. But once she did, her mother told her that no matter what—whether it be going to the police, or not reporting the incident at all—she would be by her side.

Jessica made a statement to support her friend’s case. After learning the gravity of the situation, she said she regrets not going to the police sooner. She feels like if she reported her own incident with Trevor earlier, he never would’ve had the chance to victimize someone else.

“[The hardest part is] not being able to forget everything right now just because I do have to wait for my court case. So I still have to remember everything,” Sarah said. “I’ll always have that part of my past with me.”

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Breaking the silence