One word echoed in Danny’s mind through all four years of high school, repeating itself again and again without end.
Broomstick. Broomstick. Broomstick.
“I couldn’t have a conversation with someone, not just about the incident but about anything, because in the back of my head I just kept hearing: ‘broomstick, broomstick,’” Danny said. “I thought I was going to end up either killing myself or going crazy. I was scared that when I was talking to people the word would just come out. Instead of me saying what I had to say, or meant to say, the word broomstick would come out.”
That single two-syllable word dominated Danny’s adolescent life, haunting him through the halls of Sharyland High like a spectre. “Broomstick,” and the memories it evokes, sometimes course through his mind even today, six years later.
Despite that pain, Danny felt compelled to share his story after news broke of a November 2019 hazing incident allegedly involving swimmers from Sharyland Pioneer High School, an incident that prompted a police investigation.
Sources close to the matter speaking anonymously have characterized the hazing as sexual in nature. Police described it as “inappropriate.”
Although official details on that incident are elusive, Danny says comments and posts he’s read on social media made him concerned for the wellbeing of the person believed to be the victim.
“When I saw the incident that happened at Pioneer, when I heard about it, I thought, ‘Someone needs to take care of this kid,’” Danny, now 20, said.
That concern stems from living with his own trauma, which Danny says led to harboring suicidal thoughts that were a struggle to overcome.
Because of the nature of the abuse Danny says he underwent and the stigma that surrounds it, The Monitor concealed his true identity and gave him a pseudonym for this article.
Sharyland ISD Superintendent Maria Vidaurri did not respond to calls seeking comment as of press time. It should be noted that she did not serve as superintendent at the time of Danny’s incident.
Mission Police Department documents and hospital records provided by Danny corroborate his account, with the former describing the incident as “assault by contact.” Hospital records show that he was treated for rectal pain and that a sexual assault nurse examiner’s note was completed.
Talking about the incident referenced in these documents made Danny’s chest tighten and his breath quicken when recalling his ordeal, nervously tapping on a table as he recounted the events.
‘I WALKED OUT. I STARTED CRYING.’
In the fall of 2013, Danny was a 14-year-old freshman at Sharyland High. He was nervous about starting high school, but excited to be an athlete.
One September morning, Danny says he was showering with some teammates in the school’s locker room after lifting weights.
According to Danny, he and an upperclassman were playfully tossing cold water on each other.
“It was cold, so we were taking warm showers,” he recalled. “You can say that we were messing around. When I went back to showering, someone put soap, a lot of soap on my head.”
Danny says he was angry because he was just about to finish showering and had to stay longer to rinse off the soap.
That’s when Danny claims the upperclassman walked up behind him and rammed the handle of a broomstick into his anus.
“My back was … you know, I was facing the shower, and I just felt some pain in my behind. I remember everyone was laughing, and the first thing I said was, ‘He didn’t get me, he didn’t get me. He hit my bone’ — you know, like above, cause it’s embarrassing. You don’t want anyone to know that that just happened to you.”
Danny felt helpless.
“I didn’t do anything. I mean, I know most people expected me to fight, but I didn’t. I was naked, so a fight wouldn’t have been the smartest thing,” he said.
After he finished showering and getting dressed, Danny remembers teammates approaching him to express their disgust over what happened. He claims no one reported the incident to the coach.
“I walked out. I started crying,” Danny said.
At first, Danny remembers trying to carry on with his day like he normally would, walking to his second period French class. After half an hour he says he asked to go to the principal’s office.
Danny says he described the incident to administrators and gave the names of students who witnessed it. He recalled a few people were called to the office, including the assailant, who Danny claims admitted to the act.
“I was in the office all day that day,” he said.
Despite that, Danny recalls feeling as though his claims were being dismissed as trivialities by the administrator he reported the assault to.
“She asked me if we were friends [Danny and the perpetrator] and I said no, because we weren’t friends, we were teammates. I think a friend is much more than just a teammate, especially when you’re a freshman who is still adapting,” Danny remembers. “I just met the guy, I never expected something like that to happen, so when she asked me ‘were you guys friends?’ I said ‘no’ and she said ‘yes you were,’ like, basically saying that I was lying and that he was my friend — in a way justifying what had happened because we were friends and we were playing around… To her, I think that’s how she felt.”
Regardless, Danny says Mission police were contacted and an investigation was launched, and he remembers being medically examined the day of the assault.
“We went to the hospital that day and I got checked. Someone took pictures of my behind,” he said.
Danny also recalls being approached by a representative of Mujeres Unidas, an organization for victims of sexual assault. The next day he says he was interviewed by a Mission police investigator.
‘LIKE BEING IN A WRECK’
Danny remembers thinking something would be done, thinking some kind of justice would be served and changes would be made. He expected to be called by the court, expected for his assailant to face serious, likely criminal consequences for his actions.
But according to Danny, nothing happened. Danny claims his assailant received a few days of suspension as punishment for the incident and was not expelled.
“It was hard, you know, seeing that kid walk around the same campus that I was in,” Danny said.
The physical pain from the assault lasted a few weeks, Danny says. The emotional trauma lasted years.
“It’s like being in a wreck. You’re OK. ‘I’m fine,’ you just tell everyone. ‘I’m fine.’ And then the next day it gets worse,” he said, pausing for a moment in thought. He says he remembers the administrator he reported the attack to “telling me that no one was going to know about it, she promised me that no one would know about it. Honestly, that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want the school to find out.”
According to Danny, kids did find out, and the assault became common knowledge among the student body. “It wasn’t like the first time, you know, it wasn’t like the seniors were surprised, ’cause they’d talk about it,” Danny said, recalling a kid being hit on his thigh once in a similar fashion.
Danny says that classmates knew what happened to him in the locker room, and that students would laugh about it and make jokes. He claims his attacker was laughing at the incident along with the other kids.
Soon, anytime someone made a joke about anything at all, Danny assumed it was about him. He still does.
“My coworkers were laughing the other day, and anytime someone laughs and I don’t know what they’re laughing about, I think to myself: ‘Are they laughing at me because of what happened? Do they know? Did someone tell them?’”
In the months following the incident, that two-syllable word began to pursue Danny: broomstick.
“Anytime someone would come up to me and make a joke, it was, ‘Hey man, you’re that kid that got a broomstick,’ and they’d say it like this, ‘shoved up his a–.’ I got that a lot. A lot,” he remembers.
To his disgust, Danny says the assault was even a punchline in a school production.
“Someone played that they were the nurse, and the nurse was like ‘yeah, the other day, a kid came with a broomstick in his…’ and then they whispered,” Danny remembers. “This wasn’t a talent, this wasn’t like someone playing a guitar. This was what they planned out.”
Danny remembers sitting in the audience, in the dark, and being glad it was dark. He remembers a friend sitting in front of him turning and laughing after the joke.
“Bro, they crossed a line,” Danny recalls the friend saying.
“I don’t think it was funny. I remember sitting in the talent show, and I didn’t even expect it, I didn’t think they would do that. Like, who would do that?” Danny said. “I remember when I heard that, I wanted to just get up and mess up the whole talent show. Like, break the skits, the props. I just wanted to break it, to mess up the talent show.”
Feeling isolated, Danny says the incident began to define him. He couldn’t make friends and his grades suffered. Sports, he says, became his only passion; his only outlet.
“I didn’t have a lot of friends either. I was just that kid who it had happened to, you know?” Danny said. “I think it affected me in so many ways. I think it affected the way I did in school, because I always wanted to keep my head down — like this.”
In utter defeat, the young man demonstrated how he wanted to keep his head down in class: his face flat on the table, hidden behind his arms. For a moment during the interview, Danny looked a lot like a 14-year-old again, like a kid who no longer wanted to see or be seen.
‘SOMEONE GAVE ME A VOICE’
Danny says that things have gotten better since high school. He’s going to college and he has a career in mind. He has friends and coworkers, and that word no longer echoes in his mind like it once did.
Despite that, Danny says the assault and the ceaseless bullying it led to continue to follow him; he says he’s been recognized, as an adult, as “that kid who got a broomstick up his a–.”
“I’m always worried that people are going to find out,” he said. “I can’t meet someone who’s my age. Let’s say I go out and they tell me, ‘Oh you went to Sharyland? I went to Sharyland, too.’ Cause then I’m like, ‘Holy s—, they know.’ I just worry that they know.”
Danny says he can only remember two people reaching out to comfort him about the incident while he was in high school: a teammate he wasn’t acquainted with and a representative from Mujeres Unidas.
He says watching people on social media speaking out in support of the alleged victim in the 2019 incident was gratifying; he’s even seen his own story referenced on Facebook, in a sincere, heartfelt way that makes Danny feel heard for the first time.
Those reactions, Danny says, have finally given him a community to share his story with.
“I felt like someone gave me a voice, I felt like I could stand behind someone,” Danny said. “It was something no one ever gave me.”