A former Texas high school student has come forward with accusations that school officials suspended her for “public lewdness” after she reported that she had been raped in a band room.
In her first extensive interview, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean told NBC News that a boy had asked her to go into the band room at Henderson High School in East Texas on Dec. 6, 2010 while they were waiting for a Key Club meeting to begin after school. That’s when things turned violent and the boy raped her.
After crying and cleaning herself up in the bathroom, she went to an assistant band director to report the crime.
“He told me to work it out with the boy,” she recalled. “There’s no way I would do that. But I didn’t know what to think. I was 17.”
The next day, the news reached an assistant vice principal after Bradshaw-Bean and a friend told another assistant band director. The school sent Bradshaw-Bean to a health clinic, which found lacerations to the hymen and bleeding “consistent with information given per victim,” according to a medical report obtained by NBC News.
A day after forensic specialist Michael Jimerson interviewed Bradshaw-Bean, police called her parents to say that no criminal charges would be filed against the boy.
“They said the sex was consensual. I was so shocked,” Bradshaw-Bean’s mother pointed out to NBC News. “I thought, they are pushing this under the rug. She’s being treated this way because she’s a female. I looked at my husband and said, ‘Do they know women have the right to vote?’”
Jimerson, however, insisted that the case had a lack of evidence.
“We broke it down with her version of events and his,” he said. “Her claims could not be substantiated. At the end of the day, I just know that objectively, there was almost no chance of a conviction. As a prosecutor, I have to be vigilant about the cases I pursue.”
Jimerson added that Bradshaw-Bean had used language that “implied consensual sex instead of forcible rape,” although he could not produce an exact transcript of the remarks.
“I was reporting a rape,” Bradshaw-Bean argued. “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.”
In the end, both Bradshaw-Bean and her suspected rapist were punished for “public lewdness” by being sent to a disciplinary school for 45 days. The school also declined to fulfill its legal obligation to launch its own internal investigation.
After the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled in June 2012 that Henderson High School had violated Bradshaw-Bean’s rights by not opening an investigation and by retaliating against her for reporting the rape. The school was required to clear her record and was given a 13-point plan to comply with Title IX.
Bradshaw-Bean said the school was forced to pay for a counselor that “really helped” her cope.
“Finally, I thought, there are some smart people in the world—rational people with levelheaded thoughts,” she said. “It restored my faith in humanity.”
Bradshaw-Bean now plans to study criminal justice and criminal psychology with the hopes of helping others who face injustice.