Delaney Henderson was 14. Chessy Prout was 15. Flip Rodriguez was 9. Angela Rose was 17. Each is a survivor of sexual assault. The Fort Belvoir community got to hear their stories Sept. 14, during a viewing of the Netflix documentary, Audrie & Daisy; and panel discussion co-hosted by Belvoir’s Suicide Prevention and SHARP programs. The documentary recounts the stories of three underage girls, including Henderson, being sexually assaulted and the bullying they faced afterward.
Rose led the panel discussion and shared her story of being kidnapped at night and sexually assaulted. She is the founder of the organization Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, or PAVE.
After being kidnapped, Rose said she was struck with fear, questioning what she should do as the perpetrator drove her to a remote location. Some people wonder why victims don’t fight back. But, often, it’s because of fear, she said.
However, she did recall saying to herself, “If I get away from this car, he will not get away with this.”
She was lucky, she said. The perpetrator was on parole for murdering a 15-year-old girl. When she told the police about her story, she said the original detective hadn’t believed what happened.
Eventually, her community, family and friends rallied in support of her, new detectives who believed her were assigned to her case.
Her case was also unusual, she said. Usually, when people think of rapists, they think of a man jumping from behind the bush, but that’s not the case.
“Most of the time, it’s someone we know and trust,” Rose said.
After an inquiry from an audience member about her reaction to her experience, Rose said she slept on her parent’s bedroom floor. The next morning her mother was talking to a relative, explaining that Rose had been in a car accident. Rose asked why she was lying.
Her mother’s response: “I don’t know.”
“Sexual assault is shrouded in shame,” Rose said, adding that people don’t know how to talk about it.
Rodriguez felt ashamed and humiliated when he was sexually abused by his father. He hid the experience from others well into adulthood. By then, he’d become well-known for his persona on the TV show American Ninja Warrior, where he was the “Masked Man.” In reality, the mask was a security blanket for him. It wasn’t until the show’s seventh season when he told American Ninja Warrior viewers about his childhood.
This push to share his story on television, as well as to no longer don the mask, was him trying
“to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
During the panel discussion, he wore his mask at his hip as a reminder of where he’s come from.
“I am no longer ashamed,” he said.
Henderson and Prout were raped by classmates.
Prout, an 18-year-old high school graduate, arrived in the U.S. after living her life in Japan. She suffered from depression and anxiety from homesickness and an unfamiliar culture. Ultimately, she decided to attend the boarding school her father had attended because her family needed to move to Hong Kong. In the spring of freshman year, at 15, she was raped by a star student who was graduating that year and heading to Harvard.
After being raped, Prout was bullied by other students, and she said the situation was made light of, even during chapel services and school announcements.
Prout recalled crying to her mother in her room, telling her she wanted to leave boarding school.
Not everyone has the opportunities to leave the situation or the support of their family like she had, Prout acknowledged.
“I was extremely lucky to be able to have my family support me, first of all, but also be able to leave there and be safe in my home,” she said.
Her family is still fighting the school’s culture and attitude toward sexual assault, Prout said.
Henderson’s case is also ongoing six years after she was drugged and raped. In her situation, photos had circulated school. Between school humiliations, bullying and media attention, Henderson said she kept running away. She experimented with drugs, attempted suicide twice, and has moved eight times in four years. Each time people became aware of who she was, she would run away.
Now, she works with Rose’s PAVE organization as an ambassador, speaks on behalf of other survivors and shares her story without shame. Henderson and Prout work with PAVE on behalf of survivors.
Prout said she wants to help those who aren’t in a situation where their family or communities believe them.
“There’s a community; there’s a family … of people out here who are willing to listen to you, willing to accept you, willing to love you and take care of you,” she said. “And, we are going to fight as hard as we can to change the culture so that it stops shaming and blaming survivors into silence.”
After the documentary and panel discussion, community members were able to view part of the Monument Quilt that spelled out “Not Alone.” Each of the quilt’s squares represents a story from a rape or abuse survivor. The quilt consists of more than 1,000 stories.
For Belvoir Army Substance Abuse suicide prevention info, call 703-805-5529.
Belvoir’s 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline is 703-740-7029. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.