For several months, Caroline Heldman at the Ms. Magazine blog has been reporting on the case of a high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad after she refused to cheer for the basketball player who raped her.
Here’s a little background on the story:
As Rakheem Bolton came to the free throw line during a February 2009 basketball game, the Silsbee High cheerleading squad had a rhyme at the ready: two, four, six, eight, ten, come on Rakheem, put it in.
Four months earlier, cheerleader Hillaire S. had alleged that Bolton had raped her at a house party. And now she was being asked to gleefully urge him to “put it in.” She quietly folded her arms, stepped back from the rest of the squad, and refused.
A few weeks later, she once again found herself asked to cheer when Bolton approached the free-throw line. This time, she knelt down next to her cheerleading coach and remained silent. The coach took her into the gym’s foyer to face the school superintendent and the Silsbee principal. Hillaire says they told her she needed to cheer for everyone. Sobbing, she stood her ground. She was formally removed from the squad the next school day.
– Caroline Heldman, A Cheerleader’s Rape In A Small Texas Town
Though evidence and multiple witnesses paint Bolton as guilty of rape, the basketball star somehow was able to plead down to a lesser charge of assault. He continued to play for the school and remained a sports star…while Hillaire was kicked off the cheerleading squad, ostracized by her schoolmates, and is now ordered to pay $35,000 in legal fees. And justice for all? I think not.
After attempting to sue her high school for violating her right to free speech by not cheering for her rapist, a court dismissed her case as “frivolous,” stating that,
“In her capacity as cheerleader, [she] served as a mouthpiece through which the school could disseminate speech–namely, support for its athletic teams.” Not cheering for Bolton “constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, [she] was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”
So basically, cheer up or shut up.
The school continued to pressure Hillaire into silence in order to seemingly protect the school’s star athlete. Having been denied justice in court, Hillaire’s family appealed to the Supreme Court, who denied to hear the case. Is it safe to say I think we know which gender society values more?
Follow Heldman’s coverage of the story from the beginning, where she raises important questions about victim-blaming, slut-shaming, consent, glorification of male athletes, and racial politics.
October 15, 2010: Cheerleader Required to Cheer For Man Who Assaulted Her
October 25, 2010: Cheerleader’s Father Speaks Out
May 27, 2011: A Cheerleader’s Rape In A Small Texas Town
June 15, 2011: A Cheerleader’s Rape In Silsbee, Texas: The Victim On Trial
And if you feel so inclined, you can sign a petition asking Silsbee High School to erase the $35,000 fee that Hillaire’s family has been ordered to pay.