The student news site of Emmaus High School

THE STINGER

THE STINGER

The student news site of Emmaus High School

THE STINGER

THE STINGER

Graphic courtesy of Canva.
Balancing work and school
February 22, 2024

Let Their Voices Be Heard

Students at Emmaus share their stories of sexual assault
Photo+illustration+by+Keira+Davies
Photo illustration by Keira Davies

This previously ran in our April 2023 print issue. 

Victims’ voices have been silenced for too long – and Melinda, an Emmaus High School junior, knows this firsthand. A determined and funny brunette with curls, Melinda talks about the trauma that she endured: sexual assault. Melinda had just turned 16; he was 17 – or so he said. But Melinda, whose name was changed for privacy, wasn’t alone: she was one of several victims at Lehigh Valley area high schools who was allegedly sexually violated by “Rose” (pronounced Roz).

Rose was actually a 22-year-old man with a criminal history of felony rape, according to published records.

April marks the observance of Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month, created by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The month was created to bring awareness to the issue and to find ways to prevent this from happening. This year’s theme is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Draws Equity.” The NSVRC reports one in three young women experience sexual assault.

Prevention was not a part of Melinda’s story, a story that begins when Melinda turned 16 in September of 2021. That’s when she first met Rose, who was using a pseudonym. She and a friend had gone to Dorney Park’s Haunt. Rose was working at the Cornstalkers attraction that night, and Melinda and her friend had just happened to wander through it.

Melinda and her friend made a connection that led to a seemingly innocent request: Melinda just wanted Rose’s Snapchat. Everything appeared to be alright — she was 16; he said he was 17.

Weeks went by. Rose was able to gain Melinda’s trust via the social media app and time spent together in-person. It became the trust of a true friend, or in their case, more than friends. At least that is what Melinda thought.

“First time I ever saw him outside of his job, he came over, and he was in my attic,” Melinda said. “All my friends were there, and he started taking all my clothes off, so I told [my friends] to go downstairs, and he took my virginity.”

The week after, Melinda walked to McDonald’s in Emmaus with a group of friends, including Rose. It was there he pulled her aside and said something that forever changed the encounter in the attic. Rose was actually 22.

“I freaked out really, really bad. I didn’t know what to think because he was like the first guy I ever started talking to and made me feel so safe, and I wanted to keep talking to him,” Melinda said.

“Then he just let that out, and I freaked out.”

After Rose told her his actual age, they stopped dating. They saw each other one last time afterwards: when Rose pressured Melinda to see him again and they met at a community park.

“We were sitting on a bench, and he started to persuade me into having sex with him [again],” Melinda said. “And I was so uncomfortable, and he was talking to me, and he wanted to take me into this bathroom and have sex with me, and I was telling him I didn’t want to do that.

I wasn’t comfortable having sex with someone who was so much older than me.”

The realization then hit: she was a victim of sexual assault by an adult. Records show that her assailant was previously charged in May of 2015 with sexually assaulting a female Dieruff High School student when he was 15. After admitting to the crime, Rose, intially charged with rape, plead guilty to a lesser charge of sexual assault. Then Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach sent him to Abraxas Academy, a Berks County detention center, until his hearing. He was later released after time served.

During Melinda’s final interaction with him, Rose yet again took advantage of her, an underage girl, for his own pleasure.

“I felt like the world was caving in, and I had no other choices. So that was it. I knew in every part of me that something was going to happen, but still I wanted to believe that he wasn’t going to do anything,” Melinda said. “He found this tree and pushed me up against it. And then he just started to take off my clothes, and he raped me.”

According to RAINN [Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network], during the time of their assault, 48 percent of survivors were sleeping, or performing another activity at home, 29 percent were traveling to and from work or school, or traveling to shop or run errands, 12 percent were working, 7 percent were attending school, 5 percent were doing an unknown or other activity.

Dr. Lauren Falgout, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified clinical trauma professional, said,“Sexual assault does not have to mean rape; it is any unwanted act of intimacy.”

Any sort of sexual assault can cause someone to have permanent trauma, according to Falgout, who practices in the Lehigh Valley.

“Trauma can be life-lasting and will have an impact on the person,” Falgout said.

Melinda stopped texting people, stopped calling people, and even stopped showing up at school, but her assailant persisted.

“He texted me one day, and he was super confused why I stopped messaging him until I straight up told him, ‘You wrecked me,’” Melinda said. “He completely denied it; he told me it wasn’t rape. He was making it all about himself when it really shouldn’t have been about him.”

However, Melinda was not the only victim.

Her friend, Iris B, whose name has also been changed to protect her identity, was a 15-year-old student at Emmaus, and suffered the same fate at the hands of Rose. Iris B’s story starts the same as Melinda’s, at the Dorney Park Haunt.

“I started to become friends with him and [Melinda] started to become more than friends [with him,]” said Iris B, an Emmaus student. “We were both severely attached to him because he groomed us. Throughout [Melinda’s and his] ‘relationship,’ he would flirt with me and say things like, ‘You are so pretty,’ ‘God, you look stunning,’ ‘I wish I would have gotten with you instead of her,’” Iris B said. “The comments started to become more and more sexual.”

Iris B told him to stop and that she would tell Melinda. Still, he pressured her.

Then one day, he begged and pleaded to see Iris B, saying he would kill himself if he didn’t. He broke her down to where she let him come over to the hotel where she and her family were staying, due to financial circumstances.

“He rented a room across from mine,” Iris B said. “I went over to his room, and as soon as I got in there, he pinned me against the wall and was immediately making things sexual. I tried to get him out of the hotel room and show him around the place.”

As she walked with him, he pleaded with her to return to his room.

“I let him take me back to the hotel where he ended up getting me back…,” Iris B said. “He assaulted me for hours, and then raped me.”

Iris B said she laid there, “motionless.”

After the assault, she did everything in her power to change herself.

“I dyed my hair red, and I bought a whole new wardrobe,” Iris B said. “In the process of trying to change myself, I realized that what I was trying to do was get rid of my old self, but [realized I] really needed to heal. I feel like he still has an impact on me but he does not have power over me.”
Like many victims of sexual trauma, both Melinda and Iris B underwent therapy to help them process what happened. Organizations such as RAINN and NSVRC encourage victims to come forward. Statistics suggest that 63 percent of sexual assault victims don’t report the crime. Rape is the most underreported crime, according to NoMore.org, a nonprofit
that seeks to educate people about sexual assault beyond Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

For the victims, their story didn’t end there.

After they realized what had happened to each other, they went to the police – not only to punish him for what he had done to them – but for all of Rose’s other victims.

Eventually, the police charged Rose. He faces several charges, including statutory rape. Melinda and Iris B are expected to read their victim statements in Lehigh County Court this June, where their voices can finally be heard.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

The line is open 24 hours: 1-800-656-4673.

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About the Contributor
Keira Davies, Staff Writer
Keira Davies has been a part of Stinger for one year now and is currently a staff writer. She is a pole vaulter on the Emmaus track and field. When she is not at school she enjoys being outdoors rock climbing or kayaking.

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