Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual violence; descriptions of assault; hazing; toxic masculinity.]

At Think Progress, Lindsay Gibbs reports on a hazing rape at Ooltewah High School in Tennessee, where three basketball players "have been charged with the aggravated rape and assault of a 15-year-old freshman teammate on December 21."

The reported assault happened on an out-of-town team trip for a basketball tournament, and it was one of many reported assaults, though none were as severe as the rape: The three older players raped the younger player with a pool cue until they ruptured his colon and bladder.
The head coach, Andrew "Tank" Montgomery, took the boy to a nearby hospital the night of the attack, but he was quickly treated and released.

"He was not given a proper exam and collapsed the following day," the family member said. "Once he collapsed, he was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. He had to undergo emergency surgery."

The freshman spent eight days in the hospital, and now has to wear a catheter and colostomy bag. Physical recovery is supposed to take 2-3 months, but according to his family, the injuries go deeper than that. "[H]e is having nightmares. He has stated that he thought that he was going to die as a result of the assault."
The coach did not report the assault to police, and, in fact, the team "stayed in Gatlinburg and played in the tournament after the attack, and then participated in another tournament days later." The attackers were kicked off the team, but weren't suspended from school until days later, and the coach retains his position, despite the fact that the victim's family has called for the coach, his assistant coaches, and the school athletic director to be suspended while the investigation is ongoing.

It was more than two weeks after the assault before Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith held an emergency meeting and finally canceled the remainder of the basketball season, but only because "speculation about the team 'could threaten the integrity of law enforcement's investigation.'" Not because people who rape their teammates, or abet their teammates being raped, maybe don't fucking deserve to play basketball.
But when announcing the cancellation of the school season, Smith reinforced his support for Montgomery and his staff.

"This decision is not a reflection upon the coaching staff," Smith said. "Indeed, law enforcement officials have to date found no evidence any adult acted improperly. Likewise, this decision is not meant to punish the boys on the team who are innocent of any wrongdoing and simply want to play high school sports."
This decision is not a reflection upon the coaching staff. That ain't something to brag about, Mr. Smith. Because it should be. It should be a reflection of a head coach, at minimum, who looked the other way during regular hazing incidents, who clearly never spoke to his players about the indecency and harm of hazing, who let a hazing rape happen on his watch, who did not take a rape victim directly to police, who secured him only the briefest of substandard medical care, and then prioritized a basketball tournament over his safety.

Maybe none of that is illegal, but it's aggressively unethical.

And while I'm quite sure that there are "boys on the team who are innocent of wrongdoing," namely the boys who have been victimized, I'm also quite certain that these three rapist dirtbags' behavior didn't emerge from a vacuum. There are without a doubt teammates who did not commit rape themselves who nonetheless facilitated it, whether by overt encouragement or complicit silence.

Facing evidence of the egregious harm fomented in the festering stew of toxic masculinity and the rape culture, Mr. Smith can do nothing but give us a sickening rendition of #NotAllMen.

I take up space in solidarity with the survivor of this vicious attack, and I hope he has access to the resources he needs to heal, from both his physical injuries and emotional trauma.

[Related Reading: Animal House.]

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