Amidst allegations at Broadway High, Fulton-Wright outraged, Friend turns trauma to activism

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Design by Clare Kirwan

Sexual assault allegations between two students at Broadway High have circulated through the social media pages of students. “No means no” has acted as the poster saying for the issue of consent.

By Clare Kirwan, Harrisonburg High School

Sexual assault allegations involving two students at Broadway High School (BHS), a Rockingham County school, circulated through students’ social media pages Monday, May 16, 2022. According to WHSV, administrators of BHS and the Rockingham County Public School System (RCPS) have been made aware of the situation and have launched an investigation into the allegations.

According to WHSV, on Friday, May 20, 2022, the students at BHS staged a walkout after expressing their concerns about how the administration has handled the situation. The Broadway community protested in effort to address the allegations of sexual assault and misconduct in their community Sunday, May 22, 2022.

Harrisonburg High School (HHS) sophomore Reagan Friend is one of many students who has heard about the issue and taken action.

“What’s happening at Broadway High School right now is infuriating to me. I think it’s important to raise awareness about sexual assault, but it’s sad that it has to come to this point,” Friend said.

Junior Lena Fulton-Wright believes BHS has done a poor job of handling the allegations and has voiced her opinions.

“The incident most definitely sparked conversation at HHS. Everyone heard about it and started talking and sharing the news. It’s beautiful to see the amount of support that everyone has shown for the victim,” Fulton-Wright said.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women in the U.S. experience attempted or successful rape in their lifetime, and one in four men in the U.S. experience some form of sexual violence. Worldwide, 81% of women and 43% of men experience some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime.

“There is a negative stigma around [victims sharing their stories]. The victims are usually accused of asking for it, wearing something provocative, etc. In cases where men are the victims, they usually don’t speak out about it because of toxic masculinity. I want people to be able to feel like they are heard and [know they are] valid,” Friend said.

“There is a negative stigma around [victims sharing their stories]. The victims are usually accused of asking for it, wearing something provocative, etc. In cases where men are the victims, they usually don’t speak out about it because of toxic masculinity. I want people to be able to feel like they are heard and [know they are] valid.”

— Reagan Friend

Friend is a part of the one in five who has been a victim of rape. Her experience has led her to activism on behalf of others.

“This issue has affected me a lot. I’ve had so many people come to me with their stories about how they are scared to talk to people or tell anyone and it’s not fair. I was personally surrounded by a loving family and a great support system, but not everyone has that. I try to make sure that I can be there for people as much as possible when things like this occur because I don’t want them to feel alone,” Friend said.

While Fulton-Wright herself is not a victim of sexual assault, she feels the issue is one that has deeply affected those around her.

“My experiences are nowhere near as bad as other women’s, but they still weigh on me. Being catcalled or called a slut, or begged for nudes over and over can make me feel like my body is all I’m good for,” Fulton-Wright said. “I have many friends who have been raped and assaulted and it breaks my heart that their abusers have not faced any consequences.”

Friend has used a variety of tactics to spread awareness about sexual violence, specifically her Instagram platform.

“I have been open about my experiences and shared them with others so that they can realize the gravity of the situation and what they can do to avoid getting [into] uncomfortable situations. I like to post infographics on Instagram to show real numbers and real people who have experienced this too,” Friend said.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, there are a number of local and national resources that can be utilized.

“Locally, there is a nonprofit called The Collins Center and they are amazing. They offer therapy as well as a place for all of the legal side of sexual assault cases. They were a tremendous help to me. I want people to know that they are there for you and that we have resources here for cases like this,” Friend said. “I want people who have experienced sexual assault to know they are not alone.”

I want people to know that we have resources here for cases like this… I want people who have experienced sexual assault to know they are not alone.”

— Reagan Friend

According to Fulton-Wright, raising awareness about acts of sexual violence has proved to be a challenge due to societal stigma that has built over centuries.

“People act like sexual assault is just a given and something you’ll have to deal with in life as a woman, but it does not have to be that way,” Fulton-Wright said. “Many women experience sexual assault, but they do not come out and talk about it because they’re afraid of being invalidated or further harassed. Speaking about issues like these make [these cases] less stigmatized and easier for victims to come out and share their stories.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence and want to seek help, do not hesitate to contact someone.

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National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673

National Domestic Violence Hotline 800.799.SAFE

National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network www.rainn.org

This story was originally published on The Newsstreak on May 26, 2022.