ISSAQUAH, Wash. - A room packed with hundreds of normally chatty Issaquah high schoolers was silent for more than five minutes, as one of their peers detailed how she was raped.
“I am a survivor and my story doesn’t end here,” 16-year-old Aanya Nigam said.
When she finished the room exploded with applause.
“I felt compelled to tell my story because if I don’t tell my story, other girls won’t,” Nigam said. “Continuous silence won’t do any good for anyone.”
Students also heard from Jennifer Hopper, who survived a high profile stabbing rape in 2009. Her girlfriend Teresa Butz was killed in the attack.
“I wish for you to know all yourselves as strong and powerful,” Hopper said.
Karin Walen was one of two Issaquah High School teachers who organized the evening.
“I know in our district the number one concern of girls, according to our mental health councilors from Swedish Hospital, is that girls are worried about unwanted sexual advances,” Walen said.
Walen has been organizing self-defense classes for her students for more than a year, inspired by the national program Fight the Fear. Thursday night was about getting more students from more schools involved.
In a self-defense demonstration, the women learned to shout to make their punches more powerful. The night was at times fun, but the message delivered was frightening. The students were told that one out of three of them would personally encounter sexual assault in their lifetimes.
“The fact that we got 200 girls here to come and watch us, it was amazing because normally our classes are 20-30 kids,” Walen said.
Moving forward the plan is to get more high school women now involved in full time self-defense classes, and to come up with some messages for the men in high school.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.