“It’s traumatic, and nobody really does understand until it happens to them…”
As the second hour of Jimmy Sengenberger on 710KNUS unfolded Saturday evening, “Alexa from Denver” called into the show. Alexa graduated from high school last Monday and described wanting to end her own life after she was raped inside DPS and then ignored by staff.
“My emotions are running all over the place,” described Alexa, who went on to talk about how DPS failed her several times, beginning in eighth grade. “After classes, in middle school, I was raped in a bathroom…” described Alexa.
“Teachers and students both found out, but since the school year was coming to an end, you know…instead of helping out the quiet little girl, they decided to listen to the popular boy who hurt me and started calling me degrading names.”
A year later, when Alexa was a freshman in high school at MLK, she said she was raped by a popular football player. “Since he was an A1 athlete, it was better for me to keep quiet.” Staff allegedly made it abundantly clear to Alexa that she should not talk about the rape.
Alexa also described developing faster as a teenager than most her age, and how that caught the attention of many students. However, she said that when her teacher gave her a lot of attention, she felt weird. He was later arrested for sexual assault of a student, a completely common occurrence for DPS.
In 2019, when HB19-1032 was being discussed in Denver that would broaden comprehensive human sexuality education, a school administrator who heard Alexa telling a friend about being raped, he allegedly told her, two years after the last rape, that telling her story would be helpful. According to Alexa, the idea of brushing the rapes under the carpet for two years but then wanting to highlight them to make a case for teenage contraception was hurtful to her trauma and healing. “He told me that everything would be fine if I shared it…I would be safe, everything would be fine…”
The next day, Alexa went to school only to learn that several teachers were talking about her being raped twice. “I was just in the school filling out police forms and talking to people I didn’t want to talk to because you know…it had happened literally over two years before, and…they were basically traumatizing me alongside other kids…”
In fact, SB21-073, “Civil Action Statute Of Limitations Sexual Assault,” which recently passed the Colorado legislature and was signed into law by Governor Polis on April 15th, lengthens the statute of limitations for sexual assault victims to civilly sue their abusers from six years to whatever amount of time it takes for victims to feel safe in coming forward.
Mary Katherine Brooks Fleming, who dropped the allegations against Anderson during her testimony in support of SB21-088, also testified in support of SB21-073 before it unanimously passed out of Committee on March 23rd.
As Alexa spoke with Sengenberger Saturday night and described the painful experiences she endured while a student at DPS, she recalled how unfairly she was treated by staff and how she didn’t necessarily want to talk about her rapes publicly yet; SB21-073’s passing means that whether or not Alexa had been “outed” as a victim by DPS staff, she would be free to sue her rapists whenever in time she felt safe to do so. Additionally, SB21-088 allows for victims who are or were children at the time of their assaults to file claims against youth organizations that are aware of sexual misconduct allegations against abusers.
Sengenberger asked Alexa how Anderson’s continued presence on the DPS board and ability to vote on the new superintendent made her feel. “It’s horrible. It pisses me off more than anything…his youngest victim was allegedly fourteen. My little sister is fourteen. And you know when I was fourteen, I was hurt at that age, too. So it’s like why would they keep someone who has all these allegations against him…not just one person, not just two…but over sixty different kids.”
“It’s been happening in schools all over Denver, and…nobody talks about it. They’re people in power. We’re supposed to be able to go to them if something is happening, you know? We’re not supposed to be scared of them…but here we are,” sobbed Alexa during her heartfelt and harrowing description of her time as a DPS student and silenced child rape victim within DPS.
Alexa reminded listeners on 710KNUS Saturday evening that schools are, quite literally, students. Without students, schools could not exist. “I feel like schools should start listening to us.” Gigi Gordon then proclaimed to schools and elected people, “you need to listen, you need to help…that is not okay…it is not okay for kids who are supposed to be worrying about what they’re going to eat or what they’re going to pick out for school, to be worrying about their sexual trauma, and how they’re going to get somebody to listen to them and speak up and do something.”
“I want people to start getting justice,” proclaimed Gordon after hearing Alexa’s accounts of rape and sexual trauma inside DPS. Gigi Gordon will be on 710KNUS with Sengenberger again on Tuesday from 4:00pm to 7:00pm.
As Sengenberger emphatically implores of the students, I ask the same, “keep pushing, keep leading.” Unfortunately, DPS adults are not pushing and not taking the lead. We need the kids to be as loud as possible for justice to be served, and those kids are surely emerging as some of Denver’s greatest.