“If he’d do it once he’d do it again”: Recovering from and Reporting Sexual Assault


Jade Von Doepp, Contributor

This article is a personal narrative based on the student author’s experience and stories told by interview subjects. It expresses the viewpoints solely of the author. Publication of this narrative does not represent agreement by San Rafael City Schools with the factual statements and/or viewpoints of the author. Key details and names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals involved. The author has used composite characters where appropriate.


Georgia sat as the thick words slid off her tongue. “I can’t remember,” she told the police officer handling her case. 

The officer who had just shamelessly shoved a Zyn in his cheek looked at her nervously and crumpled the edge of his paper. 

God, is he actually nervous right now?

He cleared his throat and looked her dead in the eye. “Sorry if I repeat myself. I usually take on real estate investigations.” 

She almost felt bad for him. The poor guy usually spends his time arguing about fences and rent. He has no idea what he’s doing. “It’s ok,” she said. 

Why am I reassuring him? 

With a deep breath, he started the interview. “Who was there?” he asked his third question in 30 minutes, what felt like 5 years.

Georgia felt herself drop back into that night. A few years ago, Marin County, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, a kickback—thirteen people, drinking at her best friend Emma’s house. 

That was when it happened. The reason she was here, reporting a sexual assault against a classmate. She recalled her deep sense of nothingness and how the experience sent her into a slow spiral toward what felt like a mid-life crisis dumped at 16. 


Georgia’s story is true, an experience sourced from an interview with two girls, students at San Rafael High School and another area high school respectively. 

One in six women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Nearly 82% of all victims are female and under 18 and 56% of girls have experienced any kind of sexual harassment in high school. 


Sarah also had to make a report.

The day it happened, Sarah prayed to God. She was not religious, but she prayed. She prayed in the dark, in the silence. She prayed to anyone who would listen. Her knees became a deep shade of purple as the bruises spread and spread, discolored from kneeling on the hard ground. 

She had never been religious before, growing up in a family full of “free spirits,” yet here she was in a church, on a Tuesday praying to someone she didn’t believe in. 

As Sarah gazed at herself, she saw the bruises start to form. 

Who am I?

It was a Tuesday when he raped her. It was dark by the time she walked home, stumbling around, grasping for some sense of self, of reality. When she finally made it home she trudged up the soft carpeted stairs up to her bedroom and then the bathroom. Her knees buckled when she saw herself in the mirror, whoever that was. Her own eyes couldn’t believe the person looking back was her. She ran the bath hot and watched the steam slowly consume her reflection. She stared at the pink tiles, the cracks slowly stretched toward the ceiling.

God, is that even safe?

What if my ceiling literally collapses on me…

Would I even care?

No. No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t care if I fell off the face of the Earth right now. 

She took the bar of soap and started scrubbing.

She scrubbed and wished she had a handful of steel wool and a bottle of rubbing alcohol, but she didn’t. So she rubbed until her tanned skin was red and her arms burned. Until the water ran milky-white and cold. She wished someone was there to hold her, someone to wash her back and brush her hair. She longed to be a child again, to close her eyes and for this entire world to disappear. 

She couldn’t tell her friends at school. They were all friends with him. No, she just couldn’t do it. 

Around a month later, her best friend Ava approached her. 

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

Don’t tell her


“I hate it when you lie.”

How does she know…

“I can’t.”

You can’t, Sarah, you can’t tell her.

Ava watched as the tears slowly rolled down Sarah’s face. Ashamed and embarrassed, Sarah turned to leave.

“Who was it? You think I wouldn’t notice the bruises?”

Ava walked Sarah to the office and they made a report to the Dean of Students. 


Like Georgia’s, Sarah’s story is true as well. She goes to SRHS. Some details have been altered to protect the involved parties. A student’s decision to come to the school to report an incident like her’s is a hard decision to make. You become vulnerable and it can be scary, but there will always be a handful of people at the school ready to support you. 

I cannot describe too many details of Sarah’s specific process, but this is a version of how a report and  response might look..

Usually, you make a report to a trusted adult and you are called into the office a short time after. You meet with the Dean of Students and recount what happened. The person conducting the interview, usually the Dean, will ask any questions they deem appropriate to get a full picture. They will provide you with options and along the way introduce you to the different resources for support. 

“I had lots of support along the way and am super grateful that the school has such a good support system,” stated Maya Canziani, a senior at San Rafael High School. She explained the process they went through when making a report: “I wanted to do it for so long but never had the energy or courage. It was super-rewarding.”

Ava waited for Sarah and they went to the police. 

 If he’d do it once he’d do it again, Sarah thought to herself.

Her mother was a fragile woman who worked at a bank a few blocks from school. Around 4 p.m. she got a call and immediately drove to the school. With shaking hands, she opened the door to find her beautiful daughter shrunk in a chair across from the Dean.

The Dean started discussing what was going to happen, they were going to talk to the police and they would conduct an investigation. Since it was on school grounds, the school would also conduct an investigation. 


Usually if it’s an on-campus crime, the school will conduct an investigation into the Title IX policy complaints, but this is not a legal process. If the survivor chooses to take legal action, they must go to the police. Making a report to the school can be very beneficial, afterwards, administrators can change your schedule and accommodate your needs with “supportive measures.” 

There are also many resources at the school like the Wellness Center and various staff members that will support you. “I want victims to know that the process can be traumatizing but there is support and power along the way,” says Ms. Zampino, the Dean of Students at San Rafael High School. 

If you just make a report to the school, usually the admin will conduct an investigation of their own, consisting of confidential interviews. Based on their findings, they will determine the appropriate consequences.

From the information I’ve collected from an interview with a San Rafael Police Officer, I’ve been able to assemble a rough outline of what it might look like after you make a report to the police. 

If the police department finds enough evidence to make an arrest, they will. From there the accused will be held for 24 hours then a trial is conducted. During this time they will be on house arrest. After the trial, they will go back to jail or juvenile hall if they are found to be guilty. 

Either way, the whole process is undoubtedly tolling emotionally and mentally.

During the reporting, Sarah felt herself spiraling, unveiling a dense tangle of rage and confusion but ultimately sadness. Deep in her bones, she was just sad as she thought of the greedy hands grabbing and shoving her back against the bed. 

She lay in bed at night, alone and in the dark. Sarah lay there waiting for an explanation. She waited for God to tell her why, she waited for the universe to give back what it had taken from her. Instead, she only heard a silence she could barely stand. A silence that was so loud she couldn’t sleep.

Every morning she watched the sunlight tentatively peak through her blinds. Back to school she went. She stomped through the thick October leaves and felt the sharp air scrape her lungs. She wondered what kept her going. 

Was it Ava? 

What is her stubborn nature? 

Was there even a reason to keep going?

Sexual assault of any kind is an act of violence, a crime. Often survivors of sexual assault will not even identify their experience as an assault. 

Ms. Toy, the psychologist at San Rafael High School, explains how this works. “A majority of the population does not understand what rape even is; like it doesn’t have to be someone brutally forcing you into the sexual act; it can be a lot more subtle than that, so because people don’t understand consent or a lack of consent there is underidentification among victims of themselves of being assaulted,” she said. “If you feel in a deep way that you have been violated but don’t know why, often that will result in self blame and feelings of shame.” 

As a result of this violation, survivors often struggle with self image and mental health. As Ms. Montes, a mental health professional at San Rafael High School puts it, “It’s very traumatic as your autonomy and rights are being taken away from you.” Around 80% of sexual assault survivors develop mental health disorders, ranging from depression and PTSD to eating disorders and self-harm. 


Georgia felt as traumatized as Sarah. During the interviews, Georgia just wanted it back. She wanted her youth back. As it was hastily ripped from her hands, leaving her worthless. 

God, she was worthless. 

She felt a shame, a shame that cut so deep it hurt her back. Leaving pain like a tattoo, so deep into her skin that no amount of frantic scrubbing could rip it away. 

Reporting is an intense process but there will always be someone out there who will support you. 


Sarah gazed at the people around her: Ava, her mother, and the dean all here for her. She wasn’t alone. She was never alone. 

Around two in the afternoon the next day, the police arrived at her house and started the investigation. Sarah was assigned a gentle officer; she had long brown hair and purple nails. Her voice was soft but her eyes were piercing. She ran through a list of basic questions similar to the Dean’s questions, but slowly started asking for more details, timing, and the exact information. Sarah was struggling under the pressure, but knew with each question she was a step closer to putting him away. 

She knew at the end of the day she wasn’t just doing this for herself, she was doing it for so many others just like her. 

Word of the report spread through the school like wildfire. No one knew who reported him though, people had their guesses. Eventually Sarah didn’t care. She didn’t care what they thought or what they said; she only felt relief.

During the investigation, multiple other girls came forward with allegations against him.

Eventually, everyone knew. 

To Sarah’s surprise, people weren’t doubtful or skeptical; they were concerned and angry, ashamed they were friends with him and never knew.

Sarah knew she had done the right thing, for her and every other girl.

“You could be helping a lot of other people and you’re not saving them, but empowering them. You’re making a small dent in a larger thing,” explains Maya Canziani.

Camryn Royston, another student at SRHS, explains how shocked she was when she heard about the allegations and reports. “I saw how it affected my friends mentally and it’s crazy to see how someone can get away with that and live with it after traumatizing someone so badly.”

It can be scary and shocking to learn that such a violent issue exists and is relevant at your school. More often than not, you see it happening and you just don’t recognize it, but all it takes is one person to speak up for a community to respond.

 “I was so angry that I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” says Cadence Ardell, a senior at SRHS, as she describes what it was like to find out that a peer had assaulted her classmates.

To the readers who are not a part of the 81% of women or 43% of men who have experienced sexual assault, I hope you have learned something. This is not a problem to take lightly. 

Writing this article has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Reporting and investigating, then having to reflect on my own experiences. At points I doubted whether I would finish this article. I felt the heavy weight of this issue and its widespread impact and couldn’t even remember why I bothered writing about it in the first place. 

Then I came across the realization that the only reason I even reported my own case was because of an Off the Leash article I read written by two journalism students last year: Misogyny Hurts Everyone. It Happens in High School. It Can’t Be Ignored. I felt the same anger that they felt and so many others feel today and it gave me the courage to speak up.

At the end of the day whether you make a report or not, it is your choice. 

So to the readers who have suffered an assault, I hope that this article shows you that you are not alone, and it is not your fault.


National Sexual Assault Hotline- 800.656.HOPE (4673) 

National Suicide and Crisis Hotline- 988