When Rachel Bradshaw-Bean was raped in the band room of her high school three years ago, she reported the incident to school officials hoping for justice. Instead she was kicked out of school.
This week, Bradshaw-Bean related her story to NBC in her first extended interview since her nightmare began. When she was a senior year at Henderson High School in Texas, Bradshaw-Bean followed a boy into the band room after he asked if he could have a word. There, she says, he raped her. But when she told an assistant band director, he allegedly simply told her to "work it out" with her attacker and move on.
She made another attempt at reporting the rape two days later with the encouragement of a friend. On her second attempt, the news made it up to an assistant vice principal, who promptly handed the case off to police. One problem: under Title IX, school officials in such incidents are required to conduct an independent internal investigation of their own, separate from the police inquiry. The Department of Education sent a letter to educators nationwide a year later to remind them of their Title IX obligations to ensure a safe environment for students, but sexual violence in schools still seems to be on the rise: 59 incidents were reported this year, compared to 33 in 2012.
Despite bleeding and hymen lacerations medical examiners found consistent with Bradshaw-Bean's claims, the police investigation was closed a day later. Prosecutors claimed that since she had gone into the band room willingly the burden of proof was just too much and the case could go no further. The case was handed back to the school, which, despite not conducting an internal investigation, punished both victim and perpetrator for "public lewdness" and sentenced them to 45 days at the same disciplinary school. Neither the high school nor the police department will comment on the case.
But Bradshaw-Bean's story does have a relatively happy ending. Her family went to the ACLU to file a Title IX complaint and get her transferred to a different school. A year and a half after the incident, the Department of Education ruled not only that Henderson High had violated Title IX, but that it had also unnecessarily retaliated against Bradshaw-Bean. Her record was cleared and she received funding for counseling services. The school, as of this month, is in full compliance with all 13 recommendations made in the ruling.
Bradshaw-Bean, now married and enrolled in college, now sees her experience in a different light: because of the pain she went through, she says, "I can help others facing injustice of their own."
[image via NBC News]