Mar 9, 2014
Michigan High School Protected Star Athlete Over Rape Victim, Lawsuit Alleges
Posted on Apr 24, 2013
A Michigan high school faces a lawsuit after administrators allegedly did nothing to help a female student who was sexually assaulted on campus in 2010 by one of the school’s star basketball players. Even more disturbing, after she came forward, the principal is alleged to have discouraged the victim from reporting the attack because he was worried it would hurt the athlete’s chances of getting recruited to play basketball in college.
Despite the principal’s plea, she filed charges out of fear that her attacker would strike again. And those fears were confirmed just two weeks later when the same athlete is said to have sexually assaulted another student.
The story gets even more heartbreaking as it progresses. After word of the sexual assault spread through the school, the young woman became the target of vicious bullying by her fellow students that followed her in school and online. They called her a whore and a liar, among other things, while her attacker and his friends harassed her both physically and verbally. Even after this harassment was reported to school administrators, nothing was done.
The following year, she transferred to another school in an effort to avoid her attacker and the bullying.
“This school completely ignored its legal responsibility to address student-on-student sexual harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to protect the victim,” said Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center, which is involved in the lawsuit. “The school’s failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment.”
Eventually, the basketball player was charged with two criminal counts of sexual conduct. He pleaded guilty to a single count of misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to attend an adolescent sexual offender treatment program. When he returned to school, the athlete was “punished” by having to sit out a few basketball games—as if that were some sort of acceptable punishment given the offense.
If it feels like this type of victim blaming and reaction fits in with a more alarming trend that has emerged in recent years, unfortunately it does.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.
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