Pain to perseverance

One's personal story surrounding sexual assult

Haley Elder, In-Depth Editor

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“It’s not about how I was dressed, how I was acting, or any of the other excuses I’ve heard that have placed the blame on me,” senior Ella Harrison* said. “It’s about what happened to me and how it should have been prevented.”

At the age of 16, Harrison was sexually assaulted by a friend. The assault happened in her home. And to many other teens in America, this not uncommon.

According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, “females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.” In other words, high school aged women are at the greatest risk of being assaulted.

Prior to the assault, she was a typical teenager. She was happy, healthy, and social. However, everything quickly changed.

“I wish I could say that the pain ended after that night. Sadly, it had just begun,” Harrison said.

Harrison spent months in solitude. She abruptly ended her closest relationships and isolated herself from the outside world. Yet she was not alone alone in this.

According to RAINN, “37% [of those who are sexually assaulted] experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.”

With her solitude, she developed social anxiety. With this average everyday, public events became hard to manage.

“Going to school was the hardest part. Everyday I would walk down the halls, and I would wonder who knew, what they knew, and what they thought of me,” Harrison said.

Due to her social struggles, she was not able to open up. This lead her to avoid reporting the situation for months.

“Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities,” the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports.

One year after the attack, Harrison was able to come to terms with what had happened.

“I realized that I had spent so much time being hurt by it [the assault], and I didn’t want to give away anything more than what had already been taken from me,” Harrison said.

After being able to accept it, she spoke to her closest friends and family about what she had been through.

“‘Why didn’t you do something?’ is the first thing I heard when I spoke out about it. I didn’t do anything because I couldn’t do anything, which is really important for others to understand. By the time I came to terms with what had happened, it was too late,” Harrison said.

Harrison was able to overcome the damaging aspects of the assault, but she needed some help. After speaking out, she went through group therapy sessions, talked to others who had similar stories, and learned measures of how to prevent assault from happening again.

“Finding a community of other people who have been through the same thing as me was the biggest help,” she said.

Although she was able to accept it, she still carries some effects of the assault with her.

“Now, I walk down the halls and I wonder who is struggling with a secret like mine. I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this and that’s what still hurts me,” Harrison said.

Her story is unique, however, her situation is not uncommon.

“1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime,” RAINN reported.

Currently, sexual assault is a topic on everyone’s mind. There is an uproar of outings in Hollywood, inspiring the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements.

These movements have combined together to shine a harsh light on the reality of sexual abuse. The Me Too movement works to give women a voice in order to speak out about their sexual abuse experiences. While the Time’s Up movement focuses on putting an end to sexual assault overall.

“I am a huge supporter of the movements because I feel like it shows girls that some of their idols have gone through the same thing, and that could help them come forward,” Harrison said.

Sexual assault is a prevalent issue many teens are faced with. Although it often times goes unreported, it is not uncommon. The effects of sexual assault are lifelong and potentially life-damaging.

*Names have been changed to protect identity

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Pain to perseverance