Monday, November 08, 2010

Must Cheer For Your Rapist, Must. Possibly Triggering.

That's what the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit says when deciding on this case:

The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district's legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. [...]

H.S., then 16, attended a party in her hometown of Silsbee, Texas, in October 2008. She said she was dragged into a room, thrown onto the floor by several youths and raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star on the school's football and basketball teams.

Bolton and a teammate were arrested two days later, but were allowed to return to school after a county grand jury declined to indict them. They were later indicted on sexual assault charges, but in the interim came the February 2009 incident on the basketball court.

H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.
The school then told her that she must cheer for all players, including Bolton, or leave the team. H.S. sued the school on the grounds free speech. She and her family are going to appeal the ruling.

The comments at Think Progress contain some of the expected type, the type which turns a rape case into an examination of the woman's behavior. Why did she go back to cheer-leading after something so traumatizing? Was she telling the truth about the rape? Though most comments argue that she was poorly treated by the school (or at least by Bolton) not many ask the correlating questions:

Why is a student accused of rape allowed to play in the game? Why would any school put another student, one who argues that she has been raped, into that position: of seeing her rapist rewarded*?

I am not writing about the actual court case. Whether H.S. had free speech rights or not is unclear. I am writing about the greater atrocity so very evident here: The rape culture.

I have been skeptical of the concept in the past but it is difficult to explain what happened here in any other way than by assuming that the society in Texas is pretty comfortable with rape, that the society in Texas doesn't see it as much of a crime and that rapists are not treated like criminals in Texas. They can go on with their lives with only minor adjustments (like straightening a tie).

And what about the victims of rape? They, too, must act as if nothing happened except perhaps some bad sex. They must cheer for the rapist when told to do so and they must explain why they haven't escaped all normal life IF they indeed have been raped.

This case makes me very angry. Consider this:

H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.

"I didn't want to have to say his name, and I didn't want to cheer for him," H.S. said. "I didn't want to encourage anything he was doing."

She said she had done the same thing at an earlier game without incident. This time, she said, she was called into a hallway at halftime, and the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home.
Hard time in town

Her father came out of the stands - where the fans, he said, were mocking the girl - to join his crying daughter. After a shouting confrontation with the school administrators, he, his wife and their daughter left the game.

In the following weeks, H.S. said, "it was my family against the community" of Silsbee, a town of 6,300 where "football is everything. ... They were the star athletes and I was standing up to them."

She said youths shouted "slut" at her as she drove to school with her younger sister, who soon transferred to another school.

The only response from school officials, H.S. said, was to advise her to stay away from Bolton.
Did anyone yell at Bolton on his school trips? We already know that he was cheered while playing.

What all this ultimately signals is the lesser value of women, the lesser power of women to get justice and the general view that what women are for is sex. That being raped can destroy the victim's mental health for years if not for decades is just her problem but possible false rape accusations destroy the accused man's career and life prospects.

So all victims must tread carefully and seek help only in cases where it is very clear that a violent rape has taken place. Not breathing any longer might help, too. Otherwise, be prepared for a public pillorying of the kind described here.
*The actual case turned into a plea bargain:

Two days before the ruling, Bolton, 19, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault. He was fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and take an anger-management course.