There have been so many cases of sexual assault in the news recently. From Steubenville to Rehtaeh Parsons to Tarpon Springs, story after story are popping up, ugly but following the same script.
1) Girl gets assaulted.
2) Girl reports assault.
3) Girl gets cyberbullied by peers defending attacker.
4) Girl leaves school or hurts herself while people still defend the athlete.
5) Coach of athlete gets new contract (in certain states only, your mileage may vary).
The latest case I’ve come across is from Michigan.
The script has the nasty addition of:
1b) the Principal of the school discouraging the victim from pressing charges against the attacker because it will ruin his chances of getting into a Division 1 team, basketball style.
The Principal. Which, I have to say my first thought was, is this principal getting kickbacks for his team through recruiting? Will this assault ruin some kind of funding stream? That’s what I thought. Like, schools are so underfunded that fast food companies move in, buses have to sell ad space, and testing takes away billions from actual teaching…maybe administrators don’t want boats rocked because it ruins all the other ways they could get money.
What a highly cynical thing for me to think.
But I have no idea what else to think right now because principals and teachers are supposed to be protecting our students which in this situation they did not. At all. In the case of this young man, he assaulted another girl just two weeks later.
“The victim and her parents ignored the principal’s request not to file charges because they were concerned that this student might attack other girls. Instead, the student and her parents filed a police report, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department began a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the school did nothing.
As alleged in the complaint, two weeks later another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker.”
Then the girl got the regular dosage of cyber bullying which seems to be a necessary component of accusing star athletes of sexual assault. Which they apparently are engaging in.
“As word of the sexual assault spread among the student body, the female victim became the target of an intensive cyber-bullying and harassment campaign—both at school and online—that depicted her as a liar and a “whore” who was trying to bring down an innocent athlete. These cyber-attacks were only reinforced by the fact that the school continued to take no action to reprimand the male student. Not only did fellow students harass the victim, the attacker and his friends verbally and physically harassed the girl as well. They followed her around as she moved in and out of classrooms, through hallways, and around the school campus. The attacker sometimes pushed her into other students as she walked down the hallway, causing her to slam into lockers.”
So what’s going on? Because I’ve thought about pretty much everything from a culture of dominance, to male alienation from the economic disasters befalling our country, to over use of social media, to group bonding in the highly histrionic teen years through homosocial and peer pressured humiliations, to lack of consent culture, to gendered stereotypes about sex, to copy cat actions, to now wondering if principals protect athletes not only for status but other things like funding.
I’m getting a little paranoid I think, but I honestly feel set adrift. What the hell is going on? Why are people being so awful to these women? Why attack someone who has already been attacked?
Human nature? To hate the weak? Or cultural dynamic that weakness is to be hated? Some sick combination of both? How do we shift that? Meanwhile, she’s not nor was she ever weak. Those who hurt, ultimately, are the ones not holding on to strength.
I wish I had some kind of definitive answer. I wish I could be sure enough to just declare a vision of how we fix it. I don’t have one. It’s the Hydra I suppose.
Thing is, we already know how to protect the kids, there are laws in place. This school just isn’t doing it. And it’s wrong.
“Because of the school district’s inaction, the victim’s grades suffered, she quit the soccer team and cheerleading squad, became isolated from her classmates, and ended up transferring to a new school. And while the lawsuit may vindicate her rights, it does little to undo the message the school district sent to other students, which is that if a student dares to speak out against sexual violence they will be ridiculed and left unprotected. Students not only deserve to feel safe in their school environments, according to Title IX they have a right to be safe in them as well. Unfortunately for students at Forest Hills Central High School, their administration doesn’t seem to understand that duty trumps potential college athletic recruitment.”
There needs to be justice for the new Jane Doe. And there needs to be as much outcry as we can make, as much fighting back against whatever system this is that is setting up such a toxic and familiar narrative, that if you get attacked once, you’ll just be in for it.
I don’t know what to think anymore. And I don’t know what to do. That probably feels the worst out of all of it.