August 16, 2011
On February 12th 2010 Beatrice Culbertsons planned day at the park with two of her middle school friends turned into a nightmare when they sexually assaulted her. Now 16, Beatrice spoke with Linda Stein of NorthPennLife.com
about her horrible experience.
That day school had been canceled because of snow and she received a text from one of her middle school friends to hang out at the park for the day. Tyreece DeKwan Lewis, 17, and Robert Marquis Lee, 19 picked Beatrice up, she thought they were picking up another girl and headed to the park. Instead the two boys raped her in the back seat of the car in Lansdale alley.
Beatrice thought she would be able to move on with her life again after the two boys were sentenced by a judge on July 20th to one two years in prison.
"A lot of weight was off my shoulders," Beatrice recalled feeling after Lewis and Lee were sentenced, but she hadnt expected the backlash that occurred at school after the boys went to prison.
Going back into school Beatrice was met with intense ridicule and taunting.
"I used to be friends with everybody
I was on the cheerleading squad. Everything changed. People are embarrassed to be friends with me. People who were my friends jumped on the I hate Beatrice bandwagon."
On her first day back to Pennfield middle school Beatrice received a death threat, and some of her classmates wore "Free Rob and Ty" t-shirts to school.
Along with the verbal harassment, cyber bullying in the form of social networking was a primary tool used to abuse Beatrice. A Facebook page was created, "Free Rob and Ty," along with a barrage of crude and threatening comments. Even Beatrices sister Schyler, one year older, was being tormented by other students. The situation got so bad for the girls that they finished classes at home through homebound schooling.
"With social networking and Facebook, the bullying is 100 times worse
clearly, its just words, but parents should pay a little bit more attention to what your kids are putting out there," Beatrices mother Tina Culbertson stated to Linda Stein. The bullying continues to be agonizing for Beatrice and her four sisters (three younger) even with district anti-bullying programs in place. North Penn officials are trying to work with the Culbertson family to ensure Beatrice and Schyler can safely and comfortably return to high school classes in the fall. Friends of the two boys were instructed to stay away from the girls and for the first two days Beatrice was escorted to her classes.
Lee, who was out on bail, was also back in classes and Beatrice has had a number of encounters with Lee. School officials have offered to transfer Beatrice, not Lee, to the alternative school Northbridge. It was a phoned-in death threat, "I am going to kill you," that prompted Tina Culbertson to pull the girls out of school.
Now Beatrice feels shameful as she walks in public and all for doing exactly what she should have done.
"I used to be happy, outgoing and funny," Beatrice said in her statement to the judge. "Now I hang my head when [in] public, just because I did the right thing."
Now Beatrice is doing the only thing she can do, move forward with her life. Last fall she was accepted to Philadelphia Soul arena football teams Junior Soulmates. Due to court dates Beatrice had to miss many of the practices but the Soul has offered her a scholarship for the coming year. The group will be a welcome distraction for Beatrice from the damage this ordeal has done to her and her family.
Lou Jacobs, the director of the Junior Soulmates, knows this will be a positive direction for Beatrice to move in. The group is designed to build character and confidence for the young girls. "The Soul has stepped up," Jacobs said. "When something like this happens, we are family. When times get tough we pull together."
A well-known speaker on cyberbullying
, Tina Meier, whose 13-year-old daughter committed suicide after Internet bullying
suggests obtaining legal advice, contacting the school board and their state legislature if the school officials arent willing to help.
"Her child has the right to go to school and have a normal education," Meier said. "Believe me I know how it feels. Their hands are tied because no one wants to listen." She agrees that schools cannot monitor what is happening on the internet outside of the school day, "but the second it happens to affect the climate of the school, they have a right to deal with the situation."
A 2005 study found that 10.8 percent of high school girls and 4.2 percent of high school boys were raped. About 20 to 25 percent of college women say they experienced a rape or an attempted rape. The Centers for Disease Control states that 20 percent of women who are raped are raped by acquaintances.
Beatrice wants her story out there so that other sexual assault survivors
can find courage to tell their own stories. She is a courageous woman who is making positive decisions that allow her to heal and be an incredible example to others who have experienced similar ordeals in their life. She plans to continue to study nursing when she continues classes as a junior at North Penn high school this fall.
If you are a victim of sexual assault there are resources to help you cope with what has happened to you. The Survivor Club has resources that you can refer to for support and guidance