Justice for Rachel Bradshaw

In March 2010, Rachel Bradshaw, a student at Henderson High School in East Texas, was raped in the band room of her school. Rachel reported the rape to teachers and administrators and the police. The school's response was not to punish her rapist. Instead, the school accused Rachel of “public lewdness” and moved her to an alternative disciplinary educational program. Then they moved the man who raped her to the same program. She was forced to see her attacker daily. Rachel Bradshaw was punished for speaking out.

Unfortunately, Rachel's story is not unique. All too often, sexual assault survivors receive no justice and are condemned for reporting the attack. Continued, purposeful exposure to the perpetrator, as occurred in Rachel's case, is also a common byproduct of the way educational institutions and communities deal with assaults.

In many of these situations, like at Yale University, where years of unaddressed rape, sexual assault and harassment resulted in a Title IX investigation, survivors are pressured to remain quiet about what they endured. Many school officials berate survivors who try to report assault for “trying to ruin someone's life.”

But Rachel would not be silenced. With her family, friends and the local chapter of the ACLU backing her, she fought the district's decision to place her in another school. Her case gained a great amount of support. Rachel eventually graduated from a different district, and Henderson ISD was ordered to revise its discrimination and sexual harassment policies, provide two years of mandatory annual training for staff, designate a counselor for dealing with sexual harassment cases, review police records for other cases of assault, clear Rachel's record and create a committee of staff, parents, organizations and students to educate the school community on sexual violence.

These victories are a direct result of the heroic and courageous struggle waged by Rachel and her family, as well as the support they received from community and legal organizations. In a society where sexual violence and other forms of violence against women are epidemic, where victim blaming is commonplace and compounds that violence, our response must be to build a movement that can stand up with and for people like Rachel Bradshaw.