When Rachel Bradshaw-Bean claimed she had been raped in the band room of her high school in Texas, school officials sprang into action—and kicked her out of school.
"I felt like a criminal," she said, describing the December 2010 incident in her first extended interview on the crisis and aftermath. Accused of "public lewdness," she was sent to a special school for students with discipline problems, along with the boy she said had assaulted her. "I saw him there all the time," she said.
It's not an isolated incident. The events at Henderson High School in East Texas demonstrate the obstacles girls sometimes face when reporting sexual violence in schools. "High schools across the country are failing to live up to their responsibility to address sexual assault and harassment," said Neena Chaudhry, an attorney with the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "There's no excuse."
Bradshaw-Bean and her family fought back, sparking a Department of Education probe into whether the school had violated Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in education. Under the law, schools must follow specific rules when a student reports sexual violence; those rules include launching an internal investigation separate from any police inquiry. Henderson High School relied solely on a police investigation that deemed the sex consensual.
Today, with reports of teen sexual assault making national headlines, Bradshaw-Bean, now 20, said she is speaking out so that girls know their rights and schools properly address reports of sexual violence. "I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I did," she said. Her battle to clear her name, while navigating a disciplinary school that treated her "like a prisoner," she said, changed the course of her life.