Not Okay: School Suspends Students After They Reported Sexual Assaults
Unfortunately, it’s common to hear people blame sexual assault victims for not reporting the crimes committed against them. It’s also easy to see why two thirds of sexual assaults go unreported when you hear about the consequences some people face for speaking out.
Buzzfeed spoke with two women at the same Lansing, Michigan high school who were actually suspended for reporting sexual assaults at the hands of classmates.
After a camera captured one student at Eastern High School putting a classmate’s hand around his penis in a school stairwell last year, he pled guilty to indecent exposure. But before the trial went to court, his victim was suspended for 10 days and told she couldn’t come back until there was a plan to “curb [her] behavior,” according to a lawsuit.
Her supposed offense? Violating the school’s Code of Conduct, which includes “engaging in conduct of a sexual nature regardless of consent” under “obscene or lewd behavior.” In other words, it doesn’t matter that she didn’t consent—the school actually prohibits being a victim. According to a lawsuit she’s filing, a school official told her she didn’t convey “a strong enough no.”
Fortunately, in a rare turn of events for sexual assault survivors, the police were on her side. Their report states that she “appears hesitant in the entire incident and does not initiate any of the contact.”
That didn’t make things easy for the victim, though. When she came back to school, she was bullied for being “boy crazy.” She was then suspended again for undisclosed reasons and told she couldn’t come back.
It gets worse. Yet another woman from the same school reported a sexual assault in a classmate’s car in 2014. The principal allegedly scolded her for being outside school grounds during lunch and didn’t inform her of her Title IX rights. She was viciously harassed by classmates online and didn’t return to school. She graduated by taking courses online.
These students aren’t alone. Ninety-seven schools and districts throughout the U.S. are currently under investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases.
Attorney Karen Truszkowski is representing both girls in lawsuits claiming that the school allowed them to be bullied, caused their grades to suffer, and limited their engagement in extracurriculars. “It really does punish these young girls over and over again,” she told Buzzfeed. “The initial assault is bad enough, but then they’re treated poorly by the school, they’re afraid to go back to school—it’s one thing after another.”