Her parents say their daughter was sexually harassed at school, and then treated unfairly by school officials. And they sat down with 7News to talk about their fight to protect female accusers on campus.
In March, North Andover High School students walked out of class to protest how sexual assault victims there were treated by the district. Two female accusers had been forced to sign so-called “school safety plans,” which banned them from certain areas of the school and threatened them with discipline if they didn’t stay away from their accused attacker.
Now, parents from other school districts are speaking out about the use of these no-contact orders against female accusers across Massachusetts.
7News spoke with a mother and father who did not want to be identified in order to protect their daughter’s identity.
“Our daughter is still suffering. Therefore, we suffer,” the mother said.
The parents said their daughter was sexually harassed by an older, male student at another Massachusetts high school.
“He was basically emotionally manipulating her for sexual purposes,” the father said.
Her parents said they discovered disturbing text messages where the male student used degrading language to coerce their daughter into providing sexual acts and pictures.
“I remember thinking, ‘How could my daughter be victimized like this?’” the mother said.
They said an internal investigation by the school went nowhere. Then, administrators put restrictions on their daughter.
“If he was in the same room, like in the lunch cafeteria, if he was at a table, she couldn’t go to that table. If she saw him somewhere, she had to not go in that direction,” the father said. “They even said that they could suspend her from school if she didn’t follow their instructions.”
“It was extremely unjust,” the mother said.
“I wish I could say I was shocked, but I wasn’t. Because I’ve seen this so many times,” said Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England Law Boston, and an attorney who represented those parents.
Murphy specializes in cases of sexual violence and harassment against women, and said no-contact orders in campus assault and harassment cases are an epidemic at high schools and colleges nationwide.
“School officials know that this is wrong, but they get away with it because the parents and the kids don’t know it’s wrong,” Murphy said.
Title IX forbids discrimination against women in schools and guarantees all students equal treatment. Murphy said no-contact orders placed on female accusers violate that federal law.
In North Andover, an attorney who conducted an independent review agreed, writing that the no-contact orders there “went much too far” and that the school should “discontinue” using them.
The mother and father 7News spoke with said they want more students and parents to fight back.
“If people don’t speak up about it, nothing will change,” the father said.
Experts say if your child is ever asked to sign a no-contact order, they should refuse, and you should contact an attorney.
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