Sexual assault an issue that affects many

“When I was a freshman in high school, I was walking home through the woods to my house, and a 20-something-year-old guy came up behind me and pushed me down and ripped my pants off and started to molest me.”

Speaking now in her classroom, CHS English teacher Whitney Grummon is calm despite the horrors of years past.

“He was stopped and ran away when another lady came down the path. Later, he was arrested for raping seven other women in those same woods.”

Rape is constantly discussed in the news and on college campuses, yet the conversation seems to cease on high school campuses. However, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18, and more than half of all rapes/sexual assaults are reported to have occurred within one mile of the victim’s home.

“I was very young, very naive, and it shook me to my core,” Grummon says. “In the years since, men have exposed themselves to me, with public masturbation, one in a campground, one in a park, one in a car as I was walking by. Sadly, at this point, it almost doesn’t faze me. The world is dangerous, and I want people to be aware of it and keep themselves safe when they’re walking alone, day or night.”

Unfortunately, Grummon is not alone in experiencing sexual assault.

Last year after she was dropped off above the baseball field, senior Eliza Perkins says that two men in their mid-20s asked her if she could help them jumpstart their “broken” car. Ultimately, they said the jumpstart hadn’t worked and asked if they could get a ride with her. When Perkins said no and began driving away, the men grabbed her door handle and attempted to enter her car.

“It freaked me out because I felt so helpless,” Perkins notes. “It just goes to show how vulnerable you can be. I called my friend after and told him what happened, and he was very nonchalant about it. He didn’t even ask if I were OK. Guys just need to be informed…. As a woman I feel like I have an obligation to tell men what’s going on with sexual assault and rape culture.”

RAINN reports that 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. Here at CHS, assistant principal Martin Enriquez is aware that the administration most likely doesn’t know about all cases that have occurred, but he assures that, even if they hear rumors, they look into it and try their hardest to ensure that all students and victims get the help and support so readily available to them (i.e. talking with counselors, getting connected with the Monterey Rape Crisis Center, going to the hospital to get a rape kit, etc.).

“It’s hard to put a number on how many students are raped or assaulted because the two cases per year [average], that’s just what I’m aware of,” Enriquez says. “Sometimes students are embarrassed to talk about such a sensitive topic. They don’t want to be victimized again, and mainly they don’t report because they are afraid of rumors spreading.”

Senior Avery Yeatman, who in November 2012 was sexually assaulted on campus, recalls, “[The administrators] were all so nice to me and I felt so safe telling them everything that happened, so I think if a girl is afraid to talk to them or any of the administrators here, they definitely don’t have to be.”

Yeatman was standing outside of the theater for play practice when a middle schooler on a skateboard began talking to her, then groped her breasts and skated away. The same thing happened to seniors Emily Fitzpatrick and Alia Vasanji. Later, the deputy handling their case reported that it had happened to more than a dozen girls at the middle school as well.

“It’s just sad to have to say, ‘Be aware when you’re walking on campus,’” Fitzpatrick remarks. “No one should feel like they’re going to be violated at school.”

Senior Haven Parker says she thinks twice before blindly trusting any teachers, coaches or mentors.

“When I was in seventh grade, my 60-year-old math teacher raped one of the girls in my class,” remarks Parker, who was attending school in Aptos at the time. “He was a weird teacher, but we trusted him. He would stop by girls’ birthday parties outside of school, and if I had a question about math, he would make me sit on his lap before answering it.”

Her teacher was sentenced to 17 years in prison, yet three years later, a case was built against her principal, who may have withheld information. Parker was subpoenaed for this case and recalls that the very first time she talked about what had happened to her was when she was being grilled by lawyers in a room full of strangers.

“That was really tough,” Parker says. “I wish I would have talked to someone before.”

Another senior girl, who was repeatedly abused by her mother’s boyfriend, recalls a poignant saying: “Happiness when you share it is doubled, but sadness when you share it is halved.” She adds that, because she was so young (8-10), she did not fully know what was happening and only found out last year that the same had happened to her sister.

“Now it’s like an awful distant memory, like a bad dream that something like that would ever happen to me. Talking about it again,” she says, “would make it seem like it just happened. I feel like I’m in weird emotional limbo where I’m not quite healed but I’m not bleeding anymore. It’s like I’ve put a Band-Aid and Neosporin on something that needs surgery and antibiotics.”

Although 82 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is familiar, according to a 2009-2013 U.S. Department of Justice study, all sexual assault is damaging.

A recent CHS graduate says that, while traveling abroad, she and her friend got in a fight, and she decided to go sleep in the dining hall of the camp. A man stopped her, asked if she was OK, comforted her and ultimately told her that she shouldn’t have to be alone in such a state, asking if she wanted to sleep in his tent.

She says that she was so physically and emotionally exhausted that she accepted his comfort. However, he began feeling her up and trying to have sex with her. After repeatedly saying no, she says, she eventually just gave up. The next morning she realized what had happened, left, cried and returned to his tent to get her things—only to find that he had stolen her credit cards, her camera and many of her belongings.

“I was angry at myself for letting it happen,” she recalls. “I see myself as such a strong person. People see me as such a strong person. I am physically a strong person, and to realize that I just emotionally gave up was really hard for me. I thought to myself, you know, you have two options to deal with this: You’re either angry at men for the rest of your life, and [you] don’t trust anyone, shut everyone out and put up walls, or you can learn something from it. Everything happens for a reason, and even if it’s [expletive] you need to find something positive from it.”

The Carmel High grad’s advice for victims is this: The more you let someone’s horrible actions affect the way you live your life, the more you’re letting them win.

“I can’t live my life judged on how this one guy treated me, and I’m not going to be afraid of men because one guy was an asshole.”

Victims of sexual assault should call 911 to report it, go to the hospital immediately for rape kit access, call the Monterey Rape Crisis Center—whose mission is to support and advocate for victims—at 831-375-4357 or visit their website, which contains further reporting options and resources.

Victims can also talk to the Carmel High School administrators, counselors or teachers. If something has happened to a friend, the same protocol should be followed and steps should be taken to report it.
-Carly Rudiger