Engulfed in Academia: Avoiding Trauma

I’ve always been told I’m bright. I’ve been told I’m intelligent; that I’m wise beyond my years. I always did well in school. I was valedictorian of my high school class. The only reason for all that, however, was academia was the only distraction I could delve into to escape my trauma.

In the 6th grade, I was sexually assaulted by one of my classmates. I remember being terrified of him. I can still see the look on his face and feel his hands on me when I’m having a particularly intense flashback. No one at my school acknowledged it. In fact, they all told me I was lying, and that if I told anyone else it would result in consequences. I can only assume they were protecting their reputation, and it proved to me that although school is supposed to be a “safe place,” it certainly isn’t.

I lost a lot of friendships; endured bullying, name-calling, pushes in the hallway, and uncomfortable stares. I was lost, stuck in the hell that was my head, with no way to reach out. No one believed me, and no one seemed to see an issue with pretending nothing happened. They didn’t file a police report (which is illegal) and I felt like I had no escape route. So I dived head-first into obsessing over my grades.

I got called a lot of names for this as well: know-it-all, teacher’s pet, all the usual suspects. But it was much more bearable than the other names like whore, slut, and liar. I was considered so bright and talented by all my teachers, which was a relief, because when I started at this school, I was told it was unlikely that I would graduate high school due to the intensity of my symptoms.

Leaving high school was equally the happiest and scariest day of my life. On one hand, I was finally free of being in a space that re-traumatized me every time I stepped foot inside. On the other hand, I had to figure out a future. Everyone kept telling me I’d do so well in college and that I had a bright future ahead of me. However, I let my trauma sit too long: college ended up being too much for me and I ended up withdrawing.

Despite all of the trauma and what I called “failures” at the time, I learned so much. I have a job I love, I have people who love me and support me, and I’m finally looking into returning to college to get a degree in early childhood education, with the intent to become a kindergarten or first grade teacher. I want to be a good influence and a role model for young children. I want to create a safe space for students to learn their academics, as well as life lessons.

I still have really, really intense flashbacks, nightmares, and reactions to my trauma at times. But I’m looking forward to a long, successful life ahead. I’m so excited to grow, learn and teach.


Rae LaBrie is our guest blogger. They currently work for PPAL and serve on the Youth MOVE National Board of Directors. They aspire to be a teacher in order to share their wisdom and support the emotional and academic growth of young people.

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