Student Suspended for 'Public Lewdness' After Reporting Rape

In 2010, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean — 17 at the time — was raped in the band room of her Texas high school, Henderson High. When she reported the assault to the assistant band director, he told her to "work it out with the boy." Two days later, she and a friend tried to report the assault to the assistant vice principal. She then received medical exam that showed lacerations to the hymen and bleeding "consistent with information given per the victim." A day later, she was told by the police that no criminal charges would be filed. The school did not launch its own investigation — although it was legally obligated to do so under Title IX — and instead sentenced her and her rapist to 45 days in a special disciplinary school. Their charge: "public lewdness."

Two years after her rape, Bradshaw-Bean has decided to speak out to NBC because she doesn't want anyone else "to have to go through what I did," she told reporter Abigail Pesta. She feels that her case was egregiously mishandled. Firstly, she believes that the fact that she didn't cry in her forensic interview caused the police to take her accusation less seriously. "I'm sorry, am I supposed to cry? Am I supposed to feel the emotions you tell me to?... Am I supposed to feel these emotions right now and not go into shock and not [not] know what's happening?" she asked in a taped segment with the channel. According to her account, the police were eager to push her case under the rug; she was told by the police that the sex was consensual and that there was no evidence to prove otherwise. The District Attorney of her county told NBC that she had used language that "implied consensual sex instead of forcible rape" when the police interviewed her, but he doesn't have any record of the context in which she made that statement in his notes. "I was reporting a rape," Bradshaw-Bean insisted in response. "It sounds like my words are getting twisted. If you have to twist someone's words to make your case, then something's not right."

She adds that she felt "like a prisoner" — at the disciplinary school she'd been exiled to, she saw her rapist in the hallways, when she was arriving in the morning and going to the bathroom. She tried to transfer to a different high school and was denied because the "public lewdness" charge was a stain on her record. Other students taunted her, threatening her and insinuating that she had "asked for it." After graduation, she says, "My personality changed. I didn't want to do anything. I blamed myself for the longest time." In June 2012, though, things started to look up. Bradshaw-Bean's mother, Colleen Chevallier, had filed a Title IX complaint against the school with the ACLU. And in June, a little over a year and a half after her rape, Bradshaw-Bean finally got word that the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights had ruled that Henderson High School was in violation of Title IX for failing to independently investigate the case and for its inability to provide "a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" behind their decision to send Bradshaw-Bean to the disciplinary school.

The ED outlined and instituted a 13-point plan to bring Henderson High in line with its Title IX obligations. As part of that, the faculty was made to undergo extensive training — which was very necessary because, as Pesta points out, most high schools' Title IX coordinators don't have a real, firm grasp of what the law entails. The disciplinary actions taken against Bradshaw-Bean were also scrubbed from her record, and the school had to pay for her to undergo counseling.

"The counselor really helped," said Bradshaw-Bean. "Finally, I thought, there are some smart people in the world—rational people with levelheaded thoughts. It restored my faith in humanity." As of December 4, 2013, the school is in compliance with all 13 requirements mandated by the ED, and ED officials are still monitoring the school at the present moment. As for Bradshaw-Bean, she plans to go on to study criminal justice and criminal psychology. "I can help others facing injustice of their own," she said.

Image via NBC News.