AbleToTrain by Willing & Able

Shame and secrecy code of high school sports boys

Culture of covers of sexual harassment

All of these themes have been used in recent years in a series of sexual assaults in which the perpetrators allegedly targeted high school sports students.

Perpetrators always have easy access to their victims. It was because they were teammates.

In a peer-reviewed study published in Social Issues in 2021, I examine this issue by taking a closer look at how a small American community has responded to allegations that boys from high school wrestling teams harassed other boys on the team.

Prosecutors filed felony and misdemeanor charges against five defendants, focusing on sexual assault and coercion. Some boys risk life imprisonment but the conviction will be difficult as the charges are portrayed as just a walking boy and many members of the community have expressed fear that her reputation will be heard.

Reputation at Risk

In-depth interviews were conducted with the public prosecutor and two lawyers for the case study. Accident reporting has been studied; He listened to audio recordings of police interrogations with 21 witnesses.

What I discovered is that society – mainly the boys’ school administrators, the coaches and the boys themselves – were more concerned that what the perpetrators were doing was “gay” than about the effect it would have on the victims.

No one disputed the facts of the case if the action constituted a criminal act.

They also expressed concern about how it would affect the reputation of society as a whole if what the boy did was seen as a homosexual act.

A defense attorney told me that if defendants were accused of sexually assaulting girls, they would “accompany” those who would be sent as alleged rapists. But the defender said the dynamics were different when the boys were accused of sexually assaulting other boys – an allegation that made them angry because it meant sex with another man.

So what made these criminal allegations so terrible – at least for some members of the community – was the fact that they questioned the alleged heterosexuality of the community’s stellar athletes in high schools.

Male perpetrators, victims and authorities in the school community feel that the male virility of boys is threatened.

Attack reflects others

In the attack, I surveyed a group of boys from a high school wrestling team targeting people in dark places under adult supervision, such as locker rooms and buses. The attacks were intense. It usually takes less than a minute. Usually, they involved several boys suppressing their victims, lowering their arms and legs, covering their faces, punching him in the genitals and tried to insert a bare finger into his anus attacked child especially those who have been attacked repeatedly. Often younger and smaller than the attacker The targeted boys reported mixed reactions in their interviews with police investigators. Some were scared, restless and unwilling to stay in the team. But others called it annoying, but not serious.

In this case, coaches and other school administrators reported that they knew it was a normal horse game, as they called it, but they did not know that it was related to sexual violence.

The attacks I have studied are by no means isolated. In many ways, they mirror other sexual assaults across the country, which include high school teammates as perpetrators and victims.

“When one of the plaintiffs tried to escape, the players caught him and hung him on the floor,” says the notice describing the lawsuit. “Then apparently he pressed a broom between the backs of the two students, leading to the entrance, according to the court case. The assault was so violent that a broomstick split in two according to the news account.

It is common for perpetrators to view their attack as more than sexual.

For example, on the last day of training in 2018, four players from Damascus High School in Damascus, Maryland, turned off the lights in the locker room and attacked some teammates. The attackers pulled down a boy’s pants and pushed a broomstick into him through his underpants as he screamed. They did the same thing as the other two men and trampled the other when he fought the attacking broomstick.

During the 2019 trial, the judge stated that the defendants did not seem to understand the seriousness of the attack and seemed to be watching their attack. “Is this a scam or team building?”

Public Justice is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that oversees litigation related to bullying, harassment, and sexual assault in K-12 schools. In the January 2022 selection of jury verdicts and settlements, which includes cases from the past 20 years, 21 of 334 trials involved molestation of boys and sexual abuse of other children. especially in sports However, civil and criminal proceedings do not actually reveal the scale of the problem.

The Ministry of Education monitors sexual violence in K-12 schools, but not specifically cases involving athletes assaulting teammates. The federal government is campaigning to end bullying, but sports-related bullying goes beyond what the campaign envisions.

There is another hurdle to having an accurate picture of the prevalence of sexual abuse among boys. Although victims of either gender may be reluctant to report sexual assault due to the stigma of being a rape victim, men and boys face different stigmas when expressing their experiences as a sexual victim because men must be strong and resist physical assault. .. For this reason, male victims of sexual violence may be reluctant to report their victimization experiences.

Focus on prevention

In the cases I examined, prosecutions were largely unsuccessful. Defendants pleaded guilty to minor misconduct charges, which represented significant reductions compared to the original criminal charges. Defense attorneys effectively described the attack as a delightful, mundane, and normal part of boys’ friendship.

Preventing sexual violence in high school sports requires a multifaceted approach. I see three things that deserve priority status. First, federal agencies such as the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control can collect better data on the extent and nature of the problem. Second, preventative measures can engage men and boys in promoting healthy forms of masculinity.