Gather ’round children to hear this disturbing true story.
In the tiny town of Silsbee, Texas, a 16-year-old cheerleader referred to as “H.S.” was sexually assaulted by a group of boys at a post-football game party. Doesn’t seem too shocking though, right? Rapes go unreported all of the time in high school, and the victims become invisible. We’ve accepted it as a sad but all too true part of our cultural narrative. Teen girls get raped and keep quiet about it because they’re too ashamed or think no one will take them seriously, or both.
H.S., however, did stand up for herself. When she cheered at the next high school game, she rightfully refused to cheer for her assailant, and sat down and started to cry. Instead of being surrounded by love, understanding, and people saying “WTF? You were raped? That boy is expelled from this school/life!”, H.S. was reprimanded by the superintendent and told to cheer or go home. Um, whaaaaaat?
H.S. sued the crap out of her school at a court in New Orleans on the grounds that her right to free speech was violated. Shockingly, the court denied her claim. One of the conservative jurists, Priscilla Owens, explained:
As a cheerleader … H.S. was contractually required to cheer for the basketball team, whose roster included Bolton…. H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which [the school] could disseminate speech — namely, support for its athletic teams…. [H.S.’s refusal to cheer] constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.
Well, that’s a terrifying judgement! Admirably, H.S. decided to take her case to the Supreme Court, but still ended up losing! Even worse, the federal courts have ordered her to pay $45,000 to cover the costs of this “frivolous” suit.
Let me get this straight. A girl gets raped, has the audacity to speak up about it, and is not only ignored, but penalized for the assault. “Hello, your rape cost you $45,000. Please pay up immediately.” It reminds me of health insurance companies. In this country, we pay absurds amount of money and get driven into debt for simply getting injured. What’s the take-home message of all this depressing crap? America doesn’t care if you’ve been dealt a bad hand.
In a way, denying H.S.’s case allows future rapes to occur. It says that as a society, we choose to ignore our victims. After all, how can we empower our victims when we won’t even acknowledge that they’ve been victimized? Imagine what would happen if a girl in a similar situation as H.S. reads about this ruling. Do you think she’s going to feel inclined to come forward about her assault? No way. She’s going to bury it even further down inside and become even more traumatized. Maybe she could send the Supreme Court her soon-to-be gigantic therapy bill. They and her assailant will be the ones to blame for it.