This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
Australian high school student Cassidy Trevan was only 15 when she died by suicide two years ago. However, her mother, Linda Trevan, recently came forward with a distraught letter Cassidy wrote before her death. The letter sheds light on details of a sexual assault and the subsequent emotional abuse that Cassidy suffered, which may likely have contributed to her decision to end her life.
In the letter, Cassidy wrote:
“I was a student at [name of school redacted] and I was raped by some of the students who still attend that school.”
Her mother discovered the letter on a laptop after her death–and I can’t imagine how horrifying it must have been to read. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to discover your child has been sexually assaulted and abused. Trevan told Australia’s 9 News that two female classmates of Cassidy’s actually organized the rape, which was then carried out by two male classmates–all while a third male classmate watched. I don’t even understand how anyone, let alone teens, could do something like this to their peers. To anyone.
After the assault, the attackers emotionally abused Cassidy, and also spread rumors about her on social media, which caused Cassidy to change schools. But at this point, the damage was already done–and was perpetuated since cyberbullying knows no bounds. Her letter, which is hard to read, serves as a cry for help and a warning:
“My aim is to warn other people (students mostly but also parents) about what happened because I’m worried if [my attackers] could do it to me they could it to other kids like me, or at least try to. You actually have the power to stop this from happening.”
Trevan says Cassidy reported the assault to law-enforcement, but decied not to file a formal complaint, as she feared retaliation from the students who were involved (which would have been very likely, sadly). Cassidy went on to say in her note:
“I’m not doing this for revenge to those students that raped me, set up the rape, bullied me about the rape, teased me about the rape or anything like that. I’m doing this because over 1500 students years 7-12 are currently enrolled at the school and they need to be warned.”
The letter ends with a plea for others to fight, and to be safe:
“If anyone ever tries this on you trust me it’s worth fighting! Fight! If you don’t you’ll regret it for the rest of your life like I do. You can do it. Be careful. Be warned. Be safe.”
I can’t imagine what her mother must be going through right now–it’s terrifying and tragic enough to deal with a child being abused and sexually assaulted, but to also suffer the completely devastating loss of her child is also unthinkable.
This is why we need to teach our kids–and adults–why sexual assault and cyberbullying is not OK, and why we need to make sure kids understand boundaries and consent. Teens are especially vulnerable in general, as they are just beginning to understand their identity, sexuality, and emotions–which makes sex education even more important than ever. We all deserve better. This cannot keep happening.
If you are a survivor of rape or another form of sexual violence, you can find live support and resources at RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673, or via RAINN’s chatline . If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, speak with a counselor 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-1-800-273-8255, or by accessing the chat feature on their website.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.