The more things change, the more they stay the same. The attitude that a woman who has been raped should feel and be shamed is outrageous and I think most women thought we had put that behind us. Evidently not.
Rah, rah, sis boom bah: Silsbee High School in Texas wants their cheerleaders smiling, energetic, and willing to cheer for their rapists by name. Go team!
H.S., a Silsbee student, reported being raped in 2008 by Rakheem Bolton, a fellow student and athletic star, with the help of two of his friends. In the end, Bolton recently ended up getting off without serving any jail time by pleading guilty to a lesser assault charge, spending two years on probation, doing community service, paying a fine, and attending anger management courses. Hardly seems like an adequate punishment, but it’s unfortunately not uncommon for attackers to bargain down their charges. What really gets the blood boiling is how the students’ high school treated the victim when the rape charge was levied.
Bolton was set to be on the school’s varsity basketball team, and they couldn’t risk losing by barring him from playing for a silly thing like a rape charge. That could impact their chances at winning. Who cares about the traumatic impact it would have an a cheerleader who needed to vocally support a team including her rapist?
But H.S. fulfilled her role as a cheerleader, participating in all the cheers for the team as a group. She simply refused to shout the first name of the man who assaulted her when he stood up alone to make free throws. It seems like she was being more than accommodating, when an student athlete facing trial on rape charges most likely should have been suspended from the team, even if his presence wasn’t a source of immediate distress to his victim in her position as cheerleader. In a display of extreme disrespect for a rape survivor and disregard for her well-being, school officials insisted that H.S. had to scream “Rakheem” with the rest of the cheerleaders, or she’d be kicked off the squad.
Not only that, Caroline Heldman reports on Ms. Magazine’s blog that school officials pushed H.S. “to keep a low profile, such as avoiding the school cafeteria and not taking part in homecoming activities.” As though she should somehow be ashamed for having been raped and brought charges against her attacker. Where exactly was she supposed to eat so as to not cause discomfort to the star athlete? H.S. also refused to take this offensive “advice.”