The Supreme Court Apparently Doesn’t Care About Rape Victims

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. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • sidebar

    WTF

  • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

    Call me crazy, but one does not “stand up” to a rapist by not cheering at their next game & then filing a lawsuit against the school over it. What happened to filing a police report, seeking counseling, etc before looking for monetary gain? Stuff like this makes victims look bad, which as a whole they/we/you cannot afford. Shameful.

    • AHH

      Yeah, she should've reported the rap first, got that ass hole thrown in jail and at least temporarily suspended from the team, and then she wouldn't have to cheer for him. If you don't report your rape, you lose your rights. It's sad and true, so report your rapes people.

      • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

        My mind is blown: she's suing the school–not her rapist.

    • http://www.kathygambo.tumblr.com Kathleen Gambo

      She's a freaking high-schooler. How can you fault a 16-year-old for not having a logical and methodical reaction to getting raped? Sure, legally this may have not been handled in the most effective way, but do you honestly think “H.S. ” was the one making legal judgement calls after refusing to cheer?
      Unfortunately I think this is a testament to the rigidness of our law system. H.S. is retroactively trying to recover damages because she had no guidance in how to deal with this situation appropriately. Technicalities shouldn't get lost in what the real issue is: an innocent girl got raped and there should be justice.

      • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

        To get justice, one must seek justice–not headlines.

      • brittany wallace

        i agree
        the girl is young and probably has many people making her decisions for her
        i know they don't teach classes in my high school about how to emotionally, mentally, and physically deal after being raped
        her parents or family probably coached her through the lawsuit, anyway

      • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

        Okay… so because her parents coached her through it she should have won? I'm not going to argue in regards to what should happen to her attacker, if it happened.

        But I *am* going to say I'm glad that lawsuit was kicked out of court. If it had been a victory, that would be a failure of the justice system on a scale I can barely comprehend.

      • Ted

        A girl who wasn't raped could act in the exact same manner and would have exactly the same amount of proof as H.S….this is your idea of justice?

    • guest

      yeah, press charges againt the rapist.. not against the school over cheerleading????

  • http://profiles.google.com/rosebudmeza Rose Meza

    What's sad is this isn't surprising at all. I've heard other stories where girls are ostracized by the entire community for coming forward, even going so far as to print shirts with her face and “bitch” or “slut” underneath it when she returned to school.

  • This Sucks But...

    I think you missed the point. The school was absolutely out of line, and totally stupid. Let's not pretend otherwise, however as a cheerleader… I'm pretty sure she could have just not shown up. In fact, I'm pretty sure that she could have pressed charges etc. Instead, she chose not to cheer and make a scene. This also makes sense to me, how would one be able to cheer for someone that raped them? I imagine that would be impossible.
    She did have the right to not be cheering. But by not cheering, she wasn't being a member of the “cheerleading” or what have you, and so why was she standing in that area making a scene? Was the response overly harsh by the school? Yes… but not criminal.

    The lawsuit is what is stupid about this. That would be like if I were bartender but refused to serve someone because I hated them. It would be my job. I could be an ass, give them slow service etc… but if I'm not going to serve them, I should be at work. And if my boss sends me home, I can't sue him for it.

    All of you people who feel like you have the right to do whatever you please are ridiculous. Grow up. In this instance, the rape is a huge factor, but does not make the administrators response criminal, just emotionless.

    Stop posting stupid crap if you are just going to whine about “life is so unfair and we need to be super sensitive to everyone all the time, and we should change our laws when bad things happen because life is so hard…”

    Shut the hell up.

    • sidebar

      The article points out the lack of support for rape victims in society. How is some one supposed to act rationally when they have been raped? I'm not giving a free pass but the girl probably thought she could handle it and found she couldn't. And then she got pissed the school for being assholes. And what do Americans do when they're pissed off? They sue. So I guess you're not gonna bitch the next time your school tramples on your civil liberties? Just stop bitching and follow the lemming in front right?

      • http://profiles.google.com/mopeyprincess mopey P

        What civil liberties? They violated her rights to _____? Look, I have nothing but sympathy for this girl, and think the court's opinion was harsh and that the school administrators were assholes, but she sued using a statute that's typically used for lawsuits for serious Constitutional offenses by state actors (think prison guard brutalizing an inmate).

        I agree with “This sucks but…”'s comments, the litigation was a bad idea and the real losers are the girl, her family, and even the school.
        The only winners here are the attorneys because at the end of the day they got paid, and I want to kick them in the shins for encouraging a victim and her family to channel their outrage into such a deadend pursuit.

    • Hdshearburn

      I'm sorry that society has made you such a jaded, insensitive bitch. :(

  • Sonja

    I want to know what she actually sued about. It doesn't seem like it was rape related. To me this just looks like she didn't want to cheer and they said either she does or she goes home. If she didn't want to cheer she shouldn't have gone. How is the rape related to free speech? I think she went about this completely the wrong way.

  • Lils

    NO. No no no. Ryan do not shut the hell up. It is people who don't think we need to be sensitive to all people that are the cause of so much pain and hatred in the world. Victims only deal with things the best way they know how, and the moment we blame them is the moment we have failed them. This girl deserves a voice and you gave it to her. The end.

    • http://hipsterfriend.blogspot.com HipsterFriend

      I couldn't just like this. I also have to thank you for the second to last sentence.

  • Clarence

    Since this “victim” didn't choose to do the responsible thing and report the alleged rape (which, by the way is why she gets the quotation marks, anyone can say they are raped/assaulted/what have you) people are revealing themselves to be utter asses about this by decrying the schools response. Let me explain something: It is NOT the school's responsibility to take sides in “he said/she said” cases which haven't made it to either the school disciplinary process ( I assume they have one) or the criminal justice system. It's not her prerogative, as a cheerleader to decide which players she will and will not cheer for, her JOB in her POSITION (unpaid as it may be) is to cheer for the TEAM. A team which shouldn't have this guy on it if he is a rapist, but hey, they aren't the one's not pressing charges or being willing to take the help of victim advocates and rape shield laws and take this to court. Given that he hasn't been adjudicated as guilty, for anyone to treat him as if he is merely encourages false and frivolous accusations.

    Now if she is willing to take this to court and get this rapist (Assuming she is telling the truth, and isn't crazy or lying) off the sports team and hopefully behind bars, then you will see me cheer her on. Because she will have shown she is willing to put her claims to the test.

    • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

      Oh look, someone else who uses logic & understands the legal aspect of this. Why isn't anyone bitching in response to your comments?

      I get all the luck.

      • Clarence

        Julene:

        It takes courage to even mention that those accused of rape have any rights. We are supposed to automatically believe any accusation. We are also never supposed to hold real victims of rape responsible for anything -thus even though there have been tons of changes to the laws and policies over the past 40 years, there's help in courts via Victims Advocates and there's plenty of anonymous helplines, school resources, etc – we aren't supposed to even put an expectation on victims that they report.

        No, instead this guys whole life and rep is supposed to be ruined because a girl who couldn't bring herself to take this where it needed to go in the first place, decides she wants to publicly shame him.

      • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

        Rape is one of those tricky slopes from a social standpoint. Interestingly, also one of the few arenas in which all people assume you are guilty until you're proven innocent–and even then, once the “R”-word had been uttered, rarely can people see beyond that particular accusation.

        Be careful where you tread, though. The psychological damage many victims of sexual assault (including but not limited to the actual act of rape itself) presents itself in many forms–no wonder so many people (not just women, folks) never file a report with the authorities. Shame, guilt, fear… these things work in big ways.

        All that logic aside, my issue is not with the fact she reacted at all… but that we're hearing about how the school was the one charges were filed against. I mean, was legal action taken against the guy in question? Was he found guilty? If so, I suspect this never would have made it so far. There's too many details left out.

      • http://www.kathygambo.tumblr.com Kathleen Gambo

        Right right… save the fact that he was indicted by a grand jury on felony sexual assault of a minor and pled guilty. Definitely no grounds for “publicly shaming” him.

      • Clarence

        Kathleen:

        I followed the Duke (false) rape case for over a year the LieStoppers and Durham in Wonderland blogs and became VERY familiar with how Grand Juries tend to work. There's an old saying that one can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich.

        Why wasn't this case prosecuted? Answer me that, if you can.

      • Clarence

        I should note that I read the Psychology Today piece and the original Grand Jury DECLINED to indict.
        We are unlikely to know why as those proceedings tend to be closed in many states.

        Later, the athelete plead guilty to a lesser charge than rape (presumably one they thought they had evidence for). We have no idea, once again, of the proceedings. We don't know if he was coerced to plead due to “stacking” of charges, or if, instead, he was “given a break” due to some sort of “special consideration”. Either way, what he pled to might have been less than he deserved, precisely what he deserved, or more than he deserved. We do not know. What we do know is we can state that no one has been convicted of raping this girl- and since we have so little evidence as to WHAT happened or WHY this turned out the way it did, the responsible thing to do would be to shut our mouths about it until we know more.

        Lastly, need I point out the hypocrisy of splashing accused people's names everywhere while keeping anonymous the names of their accusers?

    • LitNit

      She prosecuted, they dropped the charges to misdemeanor assault, he got off with nothing. Unlike you, who fails at life.

      • Clarence

        Because everyone who is prosecuted is guilty!

        LITNIT, your name seems to indicate “literary nitwit”.
        Now maybe thats not what it means, but it sure seems to fit, regardless.

        As for whether SHE wanted this prosecuted, I really don't know if she pushed the case or not. None of the articles I've read addresses it and it seems like most people on here are fine with her not even attempting to prosecute it, assuming thats what happened.

        We do not know what happened in those courtrooms and Grand Jury rooms, and until we do, anyone commenting on this in terms of the rape charges is rather retarded.

    • http://twitter.com/brownnnbear Jocelyn

      clarence thomas, is that you?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Freddoso/731275181 Michael Freddoso

      You have the facts completely wrong. In fact, she went to the police and the admitted assailant and alleged rapist was arrested the day after the party where the attack took place. And whether or not he is guilty of rape as a matter of law, while perhaps relevant to letting him back on the team, is completely irrelevant to the question of whether to force this poor girl to cheer “put it in, Rakheem!” (yes, that is really what they expected her to cheer).

      The courts were right about the first amendment law, but it only got to court because school officials chose to give her an ultimatum rather than just allowing her silent protest. They did not in any way have to require her to cheer, “Put it in, Rakheem!” That's just effed up. Also, I hope she files a FOIA request for all emails by the principal, the coach, and the superintendent about forcing her to cheer for him. If their reliance on the “cheering contract” was a pretext for retaliation against her, then she has a 14th Amendment equal protection claim.

  • Tracy

    OMG. This just made me mad. What the hell is wrong with America?! I hate when my friends tell me they have been raped and feel ashamed, they never got their justice and walk around as victims. UGHHHHHH, piss me off!

  • brittany wallace

    when i was a cheerleader in high school, girls would cry in the middle of games all the time
    not about rape, usually trivial shit
    the superintendent was probably just trying to whisk her away quickly so parents didn't get upset
    i guess that's how society tends to deal with violence against women, women having breakdowns, or women not doing what they were told to do
    just shove everything under the rug and pretend it didn't happen

    spectacles must be planned, and must include fireworks, right?

    not crying teenage rape victims

  • Nico

    Weak. What about the 11 year old in Texas who was gang-raped by a group of 14-25 year olds who is now being vilified as a slut who wanted it. The courts dismiss rape because society does.

    • Skylar

      Yeah but then society dismisses it when the legal system does too… It's a vicious cycle that has to stop somewhere, and “society” is a lot tougher to get through than the courts, who should know better.

  • Fjxela

    I know none of you are going to agree with what I'm about to say.

    The Supreme Court correctly ruled on this case. This case was not about rape victims, it was about school speech. As such, it was perfectly consistent with prior decision regarding protecting speech inside school premises. There are indeed other legal avenues for this poor girl to try and find some justice. But the Supreme Court does not have the authority to judge cases by overlooking the content of the argument. And, based on her rationale for suing the school, the court correctly denied her petition.

    • Clarence

      I know it seems heartless, but I have to agree with you.

      The SCOTUS has to work with
      A. The Constitution
      B. Pre-existing decisions.
      It shouldn't just make up law or revoke precedent willy-nilly because a defendent OR an alleged victim is sympathetic.

      Besides, I feel people's sympathy tends to be very self-serving.
      Here, we have an alleged rape victim who didn't get to sue her high school for failing to discipline or let her publicly disrespect someone who has never been convicted, nor plead guilty (esp at the time of the game) to rape.

      Here: http://wishididntknow.com/2011

      This case involves corrupt cops and a corrupt prosecutor (sort of like the Duke Rape case) and a man who served 14 years for a murder he didn't commit while some police sat on evidence that would have cleared him. It affects all of us in that it makes it even harder to beat the almost absolute immunity that cops and esp. District Attorneys and Prosecutors enjoy in performing the duties of their office and covering their asses for corruption and mistakes.

      I haven't looked, but it wouldn't surprise me if Thought Catalog didn't even cover it.

      • http://typicalnut.blogspot.com Bema

        Are you ethecofem Clarence?

    • http://tattoosnob.com Julene

      I agree 100% with the above statement.

  • Melissa

    It's scary how many of these comments are about how it's HER fault for going to the game, it's HER fault for not further pursuing the prosecution of her rapist, she should have sucked it up, stopped being a cheerleader, and oh dear god is no one thinking of that poor boy accused of rape?! Slutty McHarlot probably made all of it up!

    Really people? Court cases are stressful, they often force the victim to relive what she or he went through. Not to mention they're time consuming and expensive. Not pursuing the prosecution of your rapist doesn't make you a liar. It means that you didn't want to continue your court case.

    And to the people saying she shouldn't have gone to the game, you are prioritizing her rapist over her. Why should he enjoy his extracurricular while she stays at home? She has every right to go to the game and do what she loves. Forcing her to then cheer for the man who raped her is cruel. I can understand defending the court's decision, you are free to believe what you want. But to take that a step further and attack the victim's character? That is fucked up.

    • Clarence

      When you learn to stop attacking ANYONE'S character when NO ONE has been convicted in a case, then maybe you can ask for sympathy.

      As for how expensive a court case is, let me kindly ask you to consider the difference between the case the girl and her parents brought against the school system and the case the girl would have had in the criminal system against the alleged perpetrator.

      Civil claims are entirely funded out of one's pocket, unless one can find someone to put the money in the case for you. Criminal cases are funded, at least in part, by the state. When I allege a crime , I pay nothing to have it investigated or prosecuted unless I want to spend some of my own money in order to help the case along. If I'm a defendant in a criminal case I am, by SCOTUS precedent entitled to have a public defender if I am too poor to pay for a lawyer myself. Once again, I may spend my own money if I have to or if I figure waiving a public defender and bringing in my own lawyer would be in my interests. This girl and her parents spent much more money (whether it was their money or not it certainly wasn't public money) trying to sue the school then would have had to be spent trying to pursue a criminal case.

      I'm not going to shed a tear over how much money was spent trying to sue a school for not acting as this girls judge, jury, and executioner.

      • http://www.kathygambo.tumblr.com Kathleen Gambo

        Clarence you're trolling us all. You are Bolton.

      • Clarence

        Got any evidence to back up your inane accusation, Kathleen?

        If not, I suggest you keep your piehole closed if you don't have anything legitimate to say. Accusing me of being someone I'm not crosses a pretty disgusting line.

        But invariably it's one ideologues do.

  • Guest

    The school handled this all wrong. Being aware of the rape allegations; they should have just let her sit out that chant. Would that really have been so hard? Regardless of the legal standpoint, it just makes them look like assholes.

  • fuckit

    thanks internet for reminding me why i kept being raped a secret. sometimes i feel guilty, but time and time again it is confirmed that i made the right decision re my life.

    imagine your life–imagine all the fucking bullshit you deal with daily–now imagine getting raped on top of all that. it's like, “wtf? rape? i so don't need this right now. america's a piece of fucking shit anyway. totally just going to pretend it never happened.”

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