Utah woman shares story of middle school harassment and assault

Sep 24, 2018, 8:54 AM | Updated: 9:37 am
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As we hear more news about accusations of sexual assault or harassment, one Utah college student hopes sharing her story will help other victims reach out, and perhaps prevent it from even happening in the first place.

Sabrina Dalanhese says when she was in 7th grade about 6 or 7 years ago, the boy sitting next to her in one of her classes her sexually harassed and assaulted her. He would say crude things, then reached over several times and touched her inappropriately.

“I thought it was a huge deal. No one has ever touched me like that, I was a little kid,” she said.

Her friends went with her to tell the teacher, but she says all she did was switch their seats.

“She didn’t take it as seriously as I thought, which made me think it was not as serious,” said Dalanhese.

But it affected her for years. She says there was another boy who would assault girls in the hallways by grabbing their breasts or slapping their rear ends. Girls would complain, she said, but they never saw anything done about it.

Dalanhese is now in college and realizes it was wrong. She is not coming forward to get anyone in trouble, but rather to spread awareness.

“It does happen, and if someone comes forward to tell you about it as a trusted adult, you should believe them, instead of letting them think they should just let it happen,” she said.

It did not happen in a school in the Granite School District, but their director of policy and legal services, Doug Larson, is weighing in.

“If kids have been sexually harassed or subjected to violence in some way or abuse in some way, they need to report it,” said Larson.

Reporting can happen through the SafeUT app, where anonymous texting lines are set up in many schools or by telling either a teacher, counselor, or school resource officer. If you are not taken seriously, go to an administrator.

Larson says as more reporting channels are now available, kids are feeling more comfortable with reporting, and they are investigating several cases district-wide.

“We take them seriously,” he said.

And they want to prevent sexual harassment, abuse or assault from even happening. Kids as young as kindergarten are taught about boundaries and respect, and the lessons build as the students get older.

But Larson says this is a much bigger issue than schools, and schools cannot tackle this alone. Larson says teaching kids boundaries and respect and proper behavior should be addressed in homes, in churches, and in other community groups.

Dalenheese agrees that it is part of a bigger conversation.

“If I had a daughter in middle school I would want to do something about it. So much happening in middle school we don’t know about,” she said. “The time I got asked for more nudes was middle school. They would say the worst stuff, do the worst things.”

She wishes she told her parents back then what happened to her.

“We are scared to tell them, but they love you and want the best for you,” she said.

“There are trusted adults, and schools will take it very seriously,” said Larson.

KSL reached out to the Rape Recovery Center and Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault for more insight and help for this story. The Rape Recovery Center declined to comment, and UCASA did not get back to us by the deadline.

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Utah woman shares story of middle school harassment and assault