In December 2010, during her senior year at Henderson High School in eastern Texas, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean accompanied a classmate into the band room when he told her he needed to talk. She didn’t know him well, but he was a fellow bandmate.
Within moments, the “talk” turned violent. Rachel was raped. Within hours, she found the band director and told him of the sexual assault. According to Rachel, the teacher’s astonishing reply was to tell her she should “work it out with the boy.”
Numb from the attack and from the teacher’s cold shoulder, Rachel stayed at school to attend an evening meeting for band members and their parents. Her rapist and his mom were there, too, only seats away from Rachel and her parents.
Wanting to spare her parents, Rachel didn’t tell them about what had happened. Instead, she told a friend who went with her to inform another band director, who in turn brought them to tell the vice principal.
It was the response — or the lack thereof — from some school authorities that brought this story to its breaking point. Despite a medical test that confirmed Rachel’s claim of violence, she and her parents were informed that no criminal charges would be filed against the attacker. Instead, he would be sent for 45 days to a different school for kids with discipline problems.
And so, Rachel was told, would she.
According to Henderson High, both Rachel and her attacker were complicit in “public lewdness.” In other words, she was not a victim in the eyes of her school. She was an offender. Three years following this incident, Rachel told her story to NBC News.
The Truth Comes Out
Along with feeling like an exiled criminal at the disciplinary school, Rachel had to endure the taunts of other students, and she was confronted every day with the sight of her rapist in the hallways.
In June 2012, her parents’ outrage prevailed. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Rachel’s mother successfully filed a Title IX claim against Henderson High, which subjected the school to a disciplinary program of its own. The federal government assembled a 13-point plan for Henderson High to become compliant with the law. The school was also required to strike the disciplinary actions from Rachel’s record and pay for her counseling.
Rachel credits the counseling, along with the resolution of her case, with bringing her out of the low period that followed her senior year. The rage she felt at her unjust disciplinary action turned to depression and self-blaming after graduation. She couldn’t hold a job and couldn’t focus on college. These days, however, she reports feeling happy and motivated. Now back in school, she has changed her original pre-med major in favor of criminal justice and criminal psychology.
“I think about what I will do with my experience,” she told NBC News contributor Abigail Pesta. “I can help others facing injustice of their own.”
Since the NBC feature aired, the story has received heavy media coverage. Unfortunately, Rachel is not the only sexual assault victim who was victimized again by authority figures who were supposed to help. Rachel’s outspoken perseverance is already helping people like her to not remain a victim forever.
Jessica Pride is dedicated to persevering on behalf of sexual assault victims in San Diego’s civil courts. She has a proven record of advocating for victims and fighting to bring all accountable parties to justice — including attackers and authorities who failed to take proper action.
You don’t have to remain a victim. Call Jessica to talk about your legal options and find out how you can bring the truth to light. Your call is confidential.