Victim who reported a rape was punished by school for "public lewdness," now is publicly shamed online.
Three years ago, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean was raped in the band room of Henderson High School in East Texas, where she was a student. When she reported the rape, the assistant band director told her to "work it out with the boy." Not only did the school and the police fail to investigate properly, she was punished for reporting the crime by being sent to a special, disciplinary high school - the same one as her rapist.
Rachel's crime, as a rape victim? The same as her rapist's: "public lewdness." Thankfully, after her family enlisted the ACLU to file a Title IX complaint, the Department of Education ordered Henderson High School to clear Rachel's record and fund her counseling services. The school is now, apparently, in full compliance with Title IX.
This week, Rachel came forward about her ordeal to Abigail Pesta at NBC. And today, Sarah Hedgecock wrote a piece about this atrocity for Gawker. This is one story in particular that could really spark some helpful, interesting debate in the comments section. For instance, how often do schools unknowingly violate Title IX and what can we do to stop this from happening again? What should the disciplinary/counseling procedures entail for an accused high school rapist? How brave is Rachel for coming forward to share her story?
There was some of that, but it was lost amid a whole lot of victim blaming and slut shaming. Many commenters suggested that Rachel was unattractive and thus would never be a victim of rape. I won't quote those comments here because they would likely be incredibly hurtful to Rachel personally, but I mention them in order to point out how prevalent the idea still is that rape is an act of lust.
No. Rape is an act of violence and control, and it has nothing to do with how the victim person looks.
One "father of two girls" expressed deep sympathy for Rachel and regret for what had happened and the general state of the country in his comment on the NBC story. Then he concluded with some concerned victim-blaming, repeating the misconception that the onus on girls to defend themselves against rapists and to stop screwing other girls over by reporting rapes falsely:
"The fix? Girls, take self defense courses, never trust men, and if this happens to you, report it to more than one person (one person can cover it up or not report it and deny knowing about it later), and (this isn't to all, but it is just as true) stop reporting false rapes to get out of trouble or get revenge. False reporting is the biggest enemy of rape convictions."
I know, I know. Never read the comments. But here's why I went ahead and not only read them, but commented on them here: the comment sections on stories like this can reveal a lot about our societal tolerance of ignorance and downright hatefulness. Yes, comments sections are often infiltrated by trolls who want to get a rise out of reasonable people. But even if every single disturbing comment on every rape story were written by a troll - and I don't think that's the case - those comments would still offer some insight into the types of language and arguments that are deemed acceptable in a very public forum, even if their intent is only to aggravate and offend.