Teen Reports Rape. School Suspends Her, Cops Claim Sex Was Consensual

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In 2010, 17-year-old Rachel Bradshaw-Bean told officials at her high school that she’d been raped by another student in the band room. The school was required by law to launch an internal investigation; instead, they suspended Bradshaw-Bean for a month and a half, citing “public lewdness,” and forced her to attend disciplinary school with the boy she accused of assaulting her. The police, meanwhile, concluded that the sex was consensual, and declined to press charges.

Bradshaw-Bean, now 20, came public with her story for the first time earlier this week, and her Kafka-esque ordeal is yet another reminder — as if we needed another — of how absurdly difficult it can be to find justice in sexual assault cases. It isn’t simply that authorities failed to properly pursue the case, although they certainly failed spectacularly in that regard; it’s that the default mentality on the part of both school and law enforcement authorities seems to have been that the girl was lying, and thus that no action need be taken against anybody but her.

The episode unfolded three years ago at Henderson High School in East Texas, when Bradshaw-Bean was a senior. After school, the boy asked her to come to the band room to talk, and she did; this part of the story was verified by security camera footage. Once inside the room, Bradshaw-Bean says, things got violent, and he raped her.

"I was crying,” Bradshaw-Bean told NBC. “I pulled my pants up and went to the bathroom to clean myself up."

This, it goes without saying, was awful enough. But Bradshaw-Bean’s nightmarish ordeal had only just begun.

First, she told the assistant band director what had happened; to her shock, he told her to “work it out” with the boy. She then got an examination at a children’s clinic, and the medical report showed lacerations and bleeding “consistent with information given per victim.” However, instead of launching an investigation into what had happened — which was required by federal law — the school suspended Bradshaw-Bean and the boy for 45 days, forcing both to attend a disciplinary school. Bradshaw-Bean then tried to transfer high schools, but because Henderson High School had taken disciplinary against her, she wasn’t allowed to.

“I felt like a criminal,” Bradshaw-Bean says, adding that she saw the boy in question “all the time” at the disciplinary school.

Meanwhile, local police interviewed her about the incident. After investigating the case for an entire day, they told her that the boy wouldn’t be charged, claiming Bradshaw-Bean had made statements during the interview suggested that the sex was consensual.

While nothing can undue the torment Henderson High School forced her to endure, things eventually started to turn in Bradshaw-Bean’s favor. The ACLU intervened when it got wind of the case, and filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education so Bradshaw-Bean could transfer schools. The DOE ultimately ruled in her favor, ordering Henderson to clear Bradshaw-Beane’s disciplinary record and pay for a couple of her counseling sessions. That's good, but it seems like a rather light punishment for a school that failed to investigate an accused rapist.

That said, Bradshaw-Bean says the counseling sessions have helped her quite a bit.

“Finally, I thought, there are some smart people in the world. Rational people with levelheaded thoughts,” she said. “It restored my faith in humanity.

In case it bears repeating, this isn’t an isolated incident. The Maryville and Steubenville cases both became high-profile examples of authorities failing to pursue heavily substantiated rape allegations, but there are many others. A student at University of Connecticut was recently kicked off the hockey team after reporting being raped, with officials telling her she hadn’t been “stable enough” after the ordeal. In Michigan, a high school principle reportedly discouraged a student from filing sexual assault charges against an athlete who later pled guilty to having raped her.

But most stories like this go unreported, as does most sexual assault. It's estimated that only 10 percent of reported rapes are even prosecuted — and that’s only counting the cases wherein the victims are brave enough to come forward. Bradshaw-Bean only went public with her experience this year, despite the fact that it happened three years ago; she did so because, in her words, "I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I did.”