Bent over with my elbows resting on the kitchen counter, I frowned at the letter in front of me. I’d been frowning at it for about an hour now, and the words hadn’t changed, much to my frustration.
While we appreciate your concern for those who have been assaulted, we have come to the conclusion that the group you’ve suggested would not be appropriate for our school. People who have been through those types of experience benefit from professional counseling, and a support group would be best run by a mental health worker, not by high school students or even high school staff. Therefore, we are rejecting your application to start an after-school support group.
Sheryl Rondeau, principal
I’d found the letter after final bell, in an envelope stuck in the grate of my locker. The powers-that-pretended-to-be at my high school hadn’t even had the guts to meet with me face-to-face or even hand me their response in person.
And they were too gutless to even mention the purpose of the group. “Assault” and “type of experience” were completely lame ways of wording “rape” and “molestation.” Things way more kids at my high school had been through than anyone realized.
“What are you reading?” Mom asked from behind me.
I quickly flipped over the letter. I hadn’t told Mom anything about my proposal. My parents were pretty decent, but they tried to avoid anything unpleasant. They probably wouldn’t have been able to handle knowing people my age had gone through sexual assault.
At least it had never happened to me. I was thankful for that, but I also felt guilty, even though I knew it didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense for me to have escaped anything bad being done to me when it seemed like half the people I knew had gone through something awful.
I’d seen what my girlfriend Chastaine went through after reporting a guy in our grade for raping her the previous summer. What he’d done to her had been easier for her to cope with in some ways than the harassment and threats she’d gotten from people we’d gone to school with for years.
And everyone had heard about Maryellen, the fourteen-year-old girl who’d had the same thing done to her by the same guy. She’d tried to kill herself after he pled guilty. She didn’t go to our school anymore. I wasn’t sure what had happened to her.
I would never have been as strong as Chastaine. I probably would have ended up like Maryellen. Maybe even worse. That was why I’d brought up the idea of a support group. Maryellen hadn’t talked about what happened to her until she heard about Chastaine. Another girl at school had come to me and told me someone had tried to assault her, and she’d believed she was the only one until she found out Chastaine had reported Jim.
Too many people who went through that kind of thing kept quiet about it because they assumed they were the only one, or because they were embarrassed or ashamed. They blamed themselves. I wanted to change that. To help the people I knew and the ones I didn’t know about yet. A support group had seemed like the perfect way to show them they weren’t alone.
But of course the school didn’t see it that way.