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Timberline High School’s Student Run Publication


Difference Between Sexual Assault & Harassment

The hidden stories of Timberline Youth

By Staff Writer Isela Brown

No. A simple word that is interpreted as the disapproval of something, and is the one word we use to prevent our bodies from being taken advantage of. But a simple "NO" only has meaning, instead of action to protect oneself. Students at Timberline had their innocence stripped away from their hands, and were beaten down by verbal assaults to keep quiet. And when they turned to the warm embrace of our districts' safety, they were broken down slowly with no actions to bring them justice.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is an extremely heavy topic, and can be identified as unconsensual advancements as well as being forced or guilted into performing sexual acts. Jaylyn Jones, a senior at Timberline High School, reprised their experiences of assault and explained how it affected them. "I hated myself," they said, "I did not like looking at myself in the mirror, I felt disgusted with my body."

Any form of harassment or assault has been shown to create a decline in mental stability, and lower an individual's self worth. Another senior, Maia Ayuso-Robles, detailed her heartbreaking experience with assault and gave insight on the emotional effects of it. "What happened has left me with horrible trauma, depression, PTSD, and even worse anxiety," she said, "I definitely act as if I'm still 14 and more childish even after this long." The psychological effects this crime holds against people is terrifying as people use various coping mechanisms to forget and move past their experiences. 

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be identified as inappropriate sexual remarks or physical touching without the consent of the individuals. It's crucial to remember that not everyone experiences the same form of harassment as another individual would, and the same goes for the accounts of assault. Some will often downplay the idea of this form of harassment, but it should be treated just as serious as assault because if these actions go unchecked, it can lead to rape or some other form of assault. Nic Swan, a senior said, "I've only ever been harassed," before adding that, "I wouldn't say it affected me as terribly as other cases I've heard about, but it's definitely left me with some thoughts about how people treat others." Swan, who had recounted their experience with this form of harassment, completely downplayed the seriousness of the situations, and compared the extremities to those who have faced assault cases. But others, along with Swan, continue to struggle with other forms of trauma that affect the way they interact with others. A student who wished to stay anonymous, due to the inclusion of personal experience and fear of more harassment from others, relents that their experiences left them feeling like it "really violated my own point of view on myself and it took awhile to get over," they said, continuing with, "it still bothers me from time to time when someone touches me in certain way, even if they're being playful or friendly." No matter how many times a student denies and downplays their harassment, it is still a crime committed and should not be taken lightly. 

Why should you care?

After asking the district for public records regarding cases that have started at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, the data reveals that only one high school published a sexual harassment case out of the 22 that were published. There was one high school, one elementary school, and the rest were middle school; none of which were Timberline cases. Although not much information was presented due to safety concerns for the students who reported, all of the offenses committed were sexual harassment cases. With the protests that happened towards the end of January, a ton of students had come out about their sexual assault and harassment experiences, some of which who reported it to their school. 

How do you report it?

A frustration that Timberline students have expressed, as well as other students in North Thurston County, is the lack of records regarding the reports of sexual assault and harassment, which has led some individuals to think that they don't care at all. "I feel like the district or state should be able to implement a process that makes student[s] able to get into contact with the police," Jones said, "There should be a safe place for those students who are reporting it." 

Right now, Timberline High School, mirroring the same actions as North Thurston {ublic Schools, states that students should report these crimes to a trusted adult or Human Resources Executive Director Charles Burleigh. Timberline provides a resource to students who have experienced forms of sexual misconduct in the form of Safeplace Olympia. Safeplace Olympia is a resource that Timberline High School provides to students, and they are an advocacy group that helps with crisis intervention. They provide various help, as well as a 24/7 hotline for immediate options. Another major concern in students who are afraid to report. 

Ayuso-Robles expresses to students that she "knows it's hard to speak up about [assault or harassment], but it truly does help," she said, "You are valuable and deserve kindness and to get the help you need."

Graphics by Kaelyn Premo