Tag Archives: rape

Caroline Heldman helps tell the story of one girl’s rape in Silsbee, Texas

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.


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Turkish Mayor Offers “Obvious” Solution to Sexual Harassment

I’ve been reading and writing a lot about rape, victim-blaming and slut-shaming recently. Maybe I’m just paying more attention now, or maybe the the recent SlutWalk phenomenon has helped vocalize the issues of sexual assault. It also seems that recently more and more people (mostly men) have been suggesting what they think are solutions to stopping sexual harassment. In actuality, these “solutions” are absurd and only work to further degrade women. As written about previously, a police officer in Toronto this year said that women should stop dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized (setting off a series of protests all over the world). And now Mayor Necmittin Dede from Turkey has offered up his own suggestion: women should just not leave the house.

Both these men (and countless others who have similar suggestions about avoiding sexual harassment/rape) essentially blame women, their behavior, their clothing, and their independence for their assaults. How did we come to blame women for their own rapes? It’s becoming frighteningly common for society to teach girls how not to be raped, instead of teaching people that they shouldn’t rape. Instead of suggesting that women stay inside the home (presumably “where they belong”), why didn’t the Turkish Mayor come out with a statement proclaiming that people shouldn’t assault others?

Lana Moore over at Jezebel wrote a great article on the topic. Check it out here.

UPDATE: Apparently a Scottish school has also suggested that school uniforms would help curb pedophilia rates. Right, because adult men pedophiles definitely don’t love a kid in uniform…..Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann has it covered.

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The Metaphorical Spare Tire: Being prepared for Rape-Pregnancies

At a House debate for a new bill that would force women to “buy separate, abortion-only insurance policies to cover the expensive procedure,” Rep. Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane) defended the bill, declaring that women should be prepared for unplanned pregnancies (including pregnancies that result from rape) by buying special insurance ahead of time — just as he prepares for unintended flat tires by keeping a spare in his car at all times. Uhhh..

In response, Mother Jones columnist Jen Phillips created this Venn Diagram to show the similarities/differences between being raped and getting a flat tire.

Hopefully this will come in handy next time DeGraaf finds himself unexpectedly pregnant from being raped.


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Media Roudup, 1st Edition: The Strauss-Kahn Scandal

Here are some things in the media that I want to pass along regarding the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape scandal. They deal with a variety of things, including victim-blaming, responses in the French media, the “conspiracy theories” coming from members of the French elite, and the problematic history of “the great seducer.”  Click on an image below to check out the article/video.

From Feministe:

From Bloomberg:

From the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

And a second clip, in which Jon Stewart astutely points out that  “The head of the IMF trying to f*** an African” is “like a live action metaphor.”


From Jezebel: 

From Colorlines:


From TIME:  




And finally, from the National Organization for Women:

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(Slut)Walk This Way

April 3, 2011: Toronto's seminal SlutWalk / photo: Mark Blinch, Reuters

I was scrolling through my news feed today and came across a term I had never heard of before: SlutWalks. I felt that I needed to immediately stop whatever I was doing (watching You Tube videos of the Go Go’s….) and find out what SlutWalks are.

More Info: SlutWalk Toronto

The movement’s website states:

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

The idea of SlutWalks came about in response to a Toronto police officer’s comment in January 2011 that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This officer perpetuated the commonly held belief that women who dress provocatively, or “slutty” are asking for or deserve to get raped. Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s feminist* community would not go quietly. On April 3rd, 2011 a group of around 3,000-4,000 men and women marched from Queen’s Park South near the Legislative Building to the Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College Street to protest the unfair treatment of victims of sexual assault.  The Toronto SlutWalk has already inspired dozens of satellite SlutWalks across the United States, Canada, and the world in the past few weeks. The idea is to place responsibility on the RAPIST, and not the VICTIM.  A story from the Associated Press describes these marches:

        The events are similar to “Take Back the Night” rallies and other marches that aim to bring attention to sexual violence… SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on inline skates in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts”…rallies typically end with speakers and workshops on stopping sexual violence and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after sexual assaults.

Let’s be clear about one thing: no one asks to be raped. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, saying, or doing. Rape is an act of violence, power, and control. The Toronto police officer who made the disgusting comment is blaming the victim, something men have historically done in response to tragedies involving women (see:  Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire). Although I’m not an expert on this, I would venture to guess that rapists are more likely to walk free if the victim is described during her trial as someone who dresses or acts provocatively. Somehow rape is easier to digest if people believe that women who are assaulted are “asking for it” or “putting out certain vibes.” Participants of SlutWalks are marching in solidarity to raise awareness of sexual assault and victims’ rights. It is not so much about actually “dressing like a slut,” but rather about saying, “No one has a right to rape me simply based on what I’m wearing or what I look like.” It reminds me of  the protests that erupted in the late nineties  after the  Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the 18 year old female victim was said to have been wearing tight jeans at the time of the rape (the court declared that because tight jeans would be nearly impossible to pull off without the help of the girl wearing the jeans, the act must have been consensual).

Sexual violence against women is a DAILY reality all across the world. Campaigns against sexual violence like Denim Day and SlutWalks are creative and effective ways to bring about attention of this violence, and I applaud these women’s courage. To get involved in the movement and find a SlutWalk near you, head over to http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/satellite.

The first SlutWalk Santa Cruz will take place on May 14th, 2011. I’ll be out of town attending the opening of the Women Who Rock exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, but I hope to be at the SF Bay SlutWalk when it takes place (TBA).


*Let’s not go ape-sh** over this term. Feminists are people, both men and women, who believe that women deserve the same rights and protections that men have. If you think men and women should be equal, you’re a feminist.


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