Some stories are so outrageous, so contemptibly beyond the pale, that you're forced to wonder if we're living in a country that has lost its soul.
Two years ago, a 16 year-old Silsbee (TX) High School cheerleader identified as H. S., was abducted into a room by 3 football players, thrown onto the floor, and gang-raped. When others at the party ultimately came to her rescue, two of the rapists, including star athlete Rakheem Bolton, fled through a window, leaving their clothes behind (Bolton later returned and demanded his clothes from the homeowners, threatening to kill them when they hesitated).
H.S. and her family turned the matter over to the law. Like the woman in New York state whose serial-rapist is serving probation while she is sentenced real time, like the women in Iraq raped by civilian contractors whose crimes are actually protected by law, and like thousands of others seeking justice in our society today, H.S. discovered that the law was obviously not created for her.
First, her school decided it would be best for her to keep a low profile—avoid the cafeteria at lunchtime, forego the prom, stop cheerleading. H. S. decided that she was not going to be victimized anymore, though, and declined to behave as if she had committed a crime.
Then, the first grand jury not only declined to indict because of several juror's prejudices, these jurors released details of her sexual history into the community at large. At this time, Bolton and his fellow rapists were permitted to return to school, and athletics, while another grand jury was empanelled.
The situation came to a head February 27, 2009, at a play-off basketball game at which she was cheering, and the rapist Bolton was playing. During the first half, he was fouled twice, and it was customary for the cheerleaders to shout the players names before their free-throw attempts.
H.S. did not create a scene. She didn't wave her arms and scream obscenities at her rapist, did not assault him, did not regard him in any way. She refused, though, to cheer specifically for him. While the others called "Go Rakheem!" (have to wonder about them, don't you? what kind of self-loathing women are they growing in Silsbee?), she folded her arms, stepped back, and remained mute.
At half-time, the shit hit the fan.
From Sports Illustrated:
"It was the administrators against me," she recalls. As fans walked by, the cheerleader, dressed in her maroon-and-white uniform, was reduced to tears by a powerful posse: Silsbee superintendent Richard Bain, principal Gaye Lokey and cheerleading coach Sissy McInnis. Voices raised, they issued an ultimatum to the 16-year-old: Cheer for Rakheem Bolton or go home. "It wasn't right," she says.
(She) was scolded "in front of God and everybody," says her father. H.S. had not "abided by the Cheerleader Constitution," according to Hunt. The code requires cheerleaders to shout equally for all. Rather than cheer for Bolton, she chose to go home.
The violation was apparently so egregious that as H.S. walked into cheerleading class the following Monday, McInnis met her with this hello: Go to the principal's office. H.S. was kicked off the squad. Within an hour her father was in Bain's office. "I asked him, 'Are you telling me that my daughter had to cheer for her [attacker]?'" recalls the father. "He told me that if it means she had to cheer for Bolton or be removed, then that's what I'm telling you."
Her family filed suit on her behalf, to force the school to recognize her constitutional right to free speech. Earlier this month, the radically conservative fifth circuit court of appeals not only denied her request as frivolous, but ordered her family to pay all court costs. Women need not apply for justice from among the likes of Garza, Clement, Owen, or Jones (Esquires).
Her rapists were quickly indicted by the second grand jury. However, big-shot athlete Bolton was given a sweetheart accomidation by the special prosecutor, David Barlow, and the Judge, Joe Bob (I'm not making this up) Golden—both of whom, coincidentally, are big-time supporters of Silsbee athletics. In September, Bolton pled guilty to a lesser charge of Class A Assault and was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended by the judge in lieu of two years probation, a $2,500 fine, community service. And an anger management course (he threatened the homeowners, remember? That'll teach him.). He will not be required to register as a sex offender, and is free to pursue his big-time football dreams.
From KFDM news:
Bolton says he wants to move on with his life and get back to the sport he loves."College, play football," said Bolton. "Everything else I wanted to do, I can finally do it now." While Bolton is looking ahead in his life, he also looks back on the impact of the case on the former cheerleader. "I have no hard feelings," said Bolton. "I never have and I feel like it was just a misunderstanding."
Big of him to forgive her, huh? Rape so often is just a case of misunderstanding, isn't it? So easy to misconstrue what a woman wants when she's being pinned down on the floor, screaming for help. No, this guy will never be back in the system, will he?
There's just so many things wrong with this story that it makes me really, really sick. I know the one from New York is just as egregious, as are more than we can count these days, but this one happened in Texas, and I'm feeling low enough as it is about the political future of my home state. And my nation.
The pig I hold most accountable for this nonsense is the superintendent of schools (who also, incidentally, sits on the board of the Silsbee Chamber of Commerce). He had it in his power to diffuse this situation many times, and instead spitefully, misogynistically, fanned the flames. A little basic human kindness was all that was required, you know?
As for Rakheem, it's probably too late to change his woman-hating ass. A glance at his facebook bio tells you that he is not the brightest of lights, nor the most humble:
My name is Rakheem aka roc but my girl calls me daddy. in my spare time i like to chill wit my fat mama adriane…i love sports im a genius in football some may call it a master mind…well anything else yu wanna know yu can ask my adriane cause she knows more than me lol…
Doubtlessly, he will hurt women again, and maybe someday he'll even be punished for it.
Here's all the contact info I could find. I encourage you to send emails, make phone calls, let em know they don't live in a vacuum. The world will remember Silsbee's name.
Richard Bain Jr., Superintendent, Silsbee Independent School District: (address) 415 Highway 327 West, Silsbee, TX, 77656; email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone (409)980-7800/(409)980-7824
Eldon Franco, Principal, Silsbee High School: (address) 1575 Highway 96 North, Silsbee, TX, 77656-4799; email email@example.com; phone (409)980-7800
David Barlow, Atty. at Law: (address) 485 Milam Street, Beaumont, TX 77701-3518 phone (409) 838-2168
Silsbee Chamber of Commerce: (address) 545 North 5th StreetSilsbee, TX 77656-4038; phone (409) 385-5562
The Ms. Blog story and petition is here.
And here is a link to the Silsbee Independent School District page.