Searching for Justice
Silsbee cheerleader in rape case finds help and community online after thecourts fail her
This story starts out bad: A 16-year-old high school girl from Silsbee reports being raped at a party — witnesses heard her screaming, but her attackers had locked the door.
It gets worse: Her alleged rapist goes to school with her, and school officials tell her to avoid the boys and cafeteria crowds as the result of her charges.
Eventually she's kicked off the cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for her alleged rapist by name during a basketball game. (He's later expelled from school after he pleads guilty to a lesser offense.)
The girl sues the school for violating her freedom of expression and for her treatment after the attack. She loses in court (according to them, a cheerleader acts as a mouthpiece for the school and has no right to individual expression) and she and her family are now on the hook for $45,000 in legal fees. So the legal lesson is ... mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cheerleaders?
In the two months since the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, a girl whose story that caused Internet outrage is now hoping that the same notoriety can bring help, if not justice, to a young woman and her family.
Her friends have started a website, helpthecheerleader.com, to spur donations to cover her legal fees. In June, Jason Ho of Bongo Comics offered to do sketches for $20 each to support the cause. In two days he got nearly 150 requests before requests had to be cut off. Overall the site has raised nearly $27,000 or 60 percent of the goal.
It's a subtle reminder that though the school treated her like a second-class citizen and the court system allowed it, there are still people out there who don't believe women should be punished just because they were raped.