March 5, 2018
In the weeks after #MeToo began in October, stories of sexual assault and harassment were shared online. Then, the mark showed up close to home, scrawled on a Pittsburg High School bathroom stall.
As the national movement progressed, more and more women and men have come forward every day.
According to CBS News, the hashtag was tweeted nearly one million times in 48 hours, and there were more than 12 million Facebook posts, comments and reactions in 24 hours.
In hopes of sharing their stories of sexual assault, 12 people reached out to the Booster Redux. Of the 12, six young women were interviewed.
The stories described sexual assaults that took place at home, church, the workplace and on school property. These are their stories.
My name is Elizabeth and this is my story
At church, Elizabeth thought she was in a safe environment.
Three years ago, Elizabeth was playing a card game called “Books In Order” with her Sunday school group at church. The game included placing in order cards, each with a book of the Bible on it. While Elizabeth was playing, her Sunday school teacher, Lee Trevor Hardesty, began touching her inappropriately.
“We started the game and we stood up,” Elizabeth said. “It was all normal until he walked over and started to rub my back, getting lower and lower. I had to get a card that was kind of hard to reach. When I went to reach for it, instead of taking his hand off of me, he took the chance to put his hand on my butt, slide it forward, grab me and pull me back.”
Elizabeth told the girl sitting next to her what had happened by text. When class was over, Elizabeth and the girl reported the incident to the pastor. Elizabeth then told her mom about the assault. The event was confirmed to the Booster Redux by the girl who sat next to Elizabeth and two of Elizabeth’s family members.
“It made me feel scared, worried, sick and dirty. The days after were full of anxiety, emotional pain and confusion,” Elizabeth said. “People need to know this can happen anywhere, even when [they] think it’s safe.”
She remembers leaving church early that day. When she went back to church that night, the police were there.
More allegations were eventually brought against Hardesty at a later date. In December 2017, Hardesty was convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
“The sentencing will take place Feb. 22 and 23, which they claim would be our last court date,” Elizabeth said. “I am just happy to see that something is being done.”
My name is Alyssa and this is my story
At a neighboring school, Alyssa said she experienced inappropriate touching on school property, where, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 8 percent of sexual assaults are committed.
Alyssa still attends the school where the alleged assault took place.
“I was standing at my locker getting some stuff out and [two boys] came up behind me and started touching my back and sides,” Alyssa said. “When I turned around, they smacked my butt and ran off.”
Soon after the incident, Alyssa explained what had happened to a teacher and friends. She says they advised her to “just keep her distance” from the boys.
Alyssa felt her experience was disregarded and should have been taken more seriously.
“I told a couple of teachers and a few of my classmates but no one really seemed to care. No one thought it was a big deal because ‘they are just kids,’” Alyssa said. “I was really uncomfortable and upset because I thought school was where I would be safe. The inaction of the teachers made me feel like my safety was not important.”
Alyssa no longer associates with the boys who allegedly assaulted her even though she sees them every day.
“It can happen to anyone at any time and that it’s not a joke. It affects you in a lot of ways,” Alyssa said. “When you hear stories like this from peers, it makes you realize it happens to people like you, people you see every day.”
My name is Mary and this is my story
When Mary’s shift came to an end, she was ready to head home. She remembers her boss talked her into staying with him after her shift.
“Before I left, he asked me for a back massage. I gave him [one]. He told me I was doing it wrong, so he told me to lay on the floor and he gave me a massage,” Mary said. “I was really nervous and I just wanted to leave, but I felt like I couldn’t. He asked me to sit with him in his shop. I sat with him, and he proceeded to kiss me. He started to grab my breasts and made a comment regarding their size. I repeatedly told him to stop.”
As she was allegedly being sexually assaulted, Mary said she was uncomfortable. She was baffled because she had known her employer for years.
“I felt very cold and stiff as he slid his hands down my pants. I was so tense, I felt like my heart was in my throat,” Mary said. “I felt like it wasn’t real.”
She recalls leaving before her boss got further. A few weeks later, she broke down in front of a school counselor. As mandated reporters, the counselor reported the incident. According to Mary, when questioned by the police, her boss denied the allegations.
She felt as though her boss had been grooming her from the age of 14. She believes he was waiting until she was 16 because then she would be the age of consent and could drive.
Grooming is the slow, methodical and intentional process of manipulating a person to the point where they can be victimized.
Mary was in a relationship with a fellow student two years before she began working for her former boss. They would go to the boss’ shop and hang out on Fridays.
“[When] we would go to the shop, my not-then boss would make sexual jokes with me and acted like [he was] friends with me,” Mary said. “It was only until after the incident that I realized he had been grooming me until I was 16 to ask me to work for him so he could potentially do things with me.”
My name is Jessica and this is my story
Jessica, a PHS graduate, said she was sexually harassed by her stepbrother.
“My stepbrother used to slide his phone under the bathroom door when I got out of the shower. I kept thinking I saw something by the door move but thought I was seeing things. After a couple times, I wrapped my towel around me and opened the door and he was in the upstairs living room, where he never was. He said he’d dropped his phone, but I was still suspicious,” Jessica said. “At some point, I walked downstairs in the morning and saw him on the floor outside the bathroom while my mom was in the shower and was completely shocked.”
Of cases reported to law enforcement, RAINN states that 34 percent of women are sexually assaulted by someone in their family. Jessica said she felt like she could not trust anyone after being victimized by someone she lived with.
“I felt violated. He was supposed to be my family and he betrayed me on such a personal level,” Jessica said. “I was taking a shower the other day and had an anxiety attack. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. It has been three years and he had no consequences [but] I am still suffering.”
When Jessica thinks about the incident, she often does not see herself as a victim and feels as though she is exaggerating her experience.
“I feel like I am overreacting and being too sensitive. That is one reason why I have never done anything,” Jessica said. “What right do I have to destroy his life? But then again, what right did he have?”
My name is Betty and this is my story
After finishing junior high, Betty was expecting the best four years of her life. Instead, those years will be overshadowed by what she considers to be the worst night of her life.
“My life will never be the same because of [that night]. I will never get over it, I promise that,” Betty said. “No matter how much therapy I go through and talks I have, it is never going to go away. It is always going to be a part of [me].”
Betty’s summer was mostly spent hanging out with friends, having fun and repeating the next day. She did not imagine June 5, 2017, being any different. Then, she woke up to a friend on top of her.
Betty was at a close friend’s house when more friends showed up. They were all drinking alcohol when Betty began to not feel well. She went to her friend’s bed and fell asleep. About an hour after lying down, Betty said the incident occured.
“He forced himself on me. He was too big and strong to push him off but I tried and he raped me,” Betty said. “The days after, I felt like I did not mean anything. I was depressed, confused, hurt, lost and scared. I did not leave my house for two weeks straight. I slept and showered all the time. I felt broken and useless. I even tried to take my own life.”
A friend of Betty’s was concerned with her behavior at the time and contacted Betty’s mother. Shortly after several family discussions about her behavior, Betty began seeing a therapist.
According to RAINN, 13 percent of women who are raped attempt suicide, and each year, approximately 321,500 Americans 12 or older are sexually assaulted or raped.
The type of rape Betty says she experienced is considered acquaintance rape, which happens by someone the victim knows. According to Marshall University Women’s Center, 80 percent of rapes are in this form, making it the most common type of rape.
Betty says she interacts with the assailant every day at school.
“I have to deal with it and act like it does not bother me. He keeps it as secretive as he can,” Betty said. “On the first day of school, I pulled him aside and [asked], ‘Are we ever going to talk about what you did to me?’ He said, ‘No, it doesn’t matter. It’s over and done.’”
My name is Erin and this is my story
Erin, another PHS graduate, alleges she was sexually assaulted while on a spring break trip with a group of friends. She said the assailant was someone she had been close to in high school.
Everyone was drinking when Erin’s head began to hurt. She said her friend took her to his room and left her in his bed.
Erin woke up to someone on top of her. She had been moved to the roommate’s bed, who was her former high school friend. She woke up with her pants pulled down and he was sexually assaulting her.
“I tried to push his head away, but I did not have enough strength. He is a big guy,” Erin said. “He kept saying things to me that sounded along the lines of dirty talk, like I was supposed to like it.”
She also endured penetration.
She regrets not speaking up about the situation sooner.
“I had always told myself [that] if anything ever happened to me, I would share my story and report it. But when it ultimately did happen to me, I only told a few people closest to me. I could not even tell my mom who I tell almost everything to,” Erin said. “From time to time, I think about it and I just cry because I am ashamed I never stood up and said anything.”
RAINN states that two out of every three sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement.
Erin did not report her story because of fear of victim blaming because she had been drinking.
She decided to step forward to the Booster Redux after the outburst of sexual assault stories online.
“With everything going on in the media, I have come to realize just how frequent situations like this occur. It happens to so many women that I have realized [there is] no reason to be ashamed anymore,” Erin said. “Now, I am just angry that this is systematically happening to women all over the world and hardly anyone is doing anything to stop it. Exposure is an important part to seeing a problem and I think sharing stories, even anonymously, will help other people.”
The next step.
Mary, who described being assaulted by her former boss, believes that sexual assault and all aspects concerning it should be talked about.
“Sexual assault is a real issue that needs to be discussed. People need to be taught to respect the space of others,” Mary said. “People need to learn the power of consent in the validity of the word ‘no.’”
While this story focused on six individual accounts, in the March issue, The Booster Redux will report on what happens in the aftermath of an assault.
Though they were anonymous, these young women wanted their stories to be shared.
“No matter how small and seemingly harmless an act of sexual assault is, it’s still sexual assault,” Jessica said. “You have to do something about it and not feel ashamed. It’s not the victim’s fault, ever. Do not let anyone hurt you physically or emotionally. You are not alone.”