This high school is bullying a student for speaking up about her sexual assault
‘I refuse to be a victim’
A sophomore has spoken out against staff at her high school who she says bullied her after she came forward to report her sexual assault.
Nichole Segay, 15, told her coach that a guy grabbed her ass as she stretched before track practice at Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
But she told babe that her coach didn't report it to the school even though policy required him to, and dismissed the incident as a "grab-ass game."
In an interview, Nichole said the bullying she faced from staff left her feeling "miserable", "victimized" and "unsafe."
Nichole said the incident took place on April 17 2017 when she was stretching ahead of track practice. She enjoys cross-country best, and comes from a family of runners – her sister is training to represent the USA at the 2020 Olympics.
"I was at track practice and I was walking past him," she told babe, referring to the classmate who she said groped her. "He was talking to one of the other girls and I walked past and that’s when he grabbed me. I didn’t do anything – I just turned around and looked at him but his hand was still on me."
She told her mom about it, who contacted a school coach – he told her he would handle it. They heard nothing for weeks, and Nichole had to continue training with the guy who groped her. Not only that but Nichole started to notice she was being treated differently by her coach and other students.
"Another classmate told me that I was asking for it," Nichole wrote in a speech she gave to her school board, which she shared with babe. "I had worn that same outfit numerous times before, what made this time so different?"
When she shared her concerns with her coach and athletic director, she was told "girls were more emotional," as she started to get frustrated and cry.
And when her mom Belinda tried to talk to her coach about it, she said the coach told her: "My daughter had no heart, she was never going to make it, she wasn't a leader. She said the whole team is better than her. And he later said I had misheard him when he said those things."
According to Belinda, he laughed, then added: "Good luck trying to get rid of me, and good luck trying to get a meeting with the school."
A petition was launched yesterday for the school to fire the coach, properly punish the student and formerly apologize to Nichole.
The coach later asked the guy to write a short apology letter to Nichole, 20 days after the incident. According to Nichole, it read along the lines of: "I’m sorry for what happened last track season. It was meant to be playfulness between teammates. I hope you can accept my apology."
Nichole said she was unsatisfied by the response she called a "two-liner," and became further motivated to speak out and pursue justice after seeing Taylor Swift win her sexual assault case later that year.
In her speech to the board, Nichole said she arranged for a meeting with the principal and district athletic director to talk about her report of sexual assault.
There, Nichole said Principal Dana Cook told her: "So you know, what happened to you was not a sexual assault."
Under Arizona state law, sexual assault only includes sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact and not groping. Groping, specifically the kind that Nichole experienced, is a lesser crime in Arizona known as sexual abuse.
"Regardless of the appropriate name, I was still inappropriately touched and absolutely nothing was done," said Nichole. "It feels like I am a outspoken victim and what happened to me is being portrayed as a minor thing, in a way like I need to just get over it."
She ended her speech with the questions:
"Why was this student who committed this act not punished?"
"Why is there no protocol to take sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously?"
"Why am I be victimized again for coming forward?"
"Why does it feel like I’m being bullied for standing up for myself by my coach and the school administrators?"
"Why am I not feeling safe at my own school?"
We repeatedly contacted Camelback High School's principal and the coach in question, but did not hear back.
An article featuring Nichole published by Arizona Central in November included the statement: "We take seriously every allegation of harassment and investigate fully in order to determine the most appropriate course of action."
Babe is looking to interview high schoolers who have had similar experiences – email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story confidentially.