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Students disciplined for making rape joke during a charity fundraiser

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Four high school students have been disciplined after making a rape joke with body paint during a cancer fundraising effort.

During a charity football game on Friday (15 September) between Westside High School and Daniel High School, both based in South Carolina, America, a number of Westside students painted pink letters on their stomachs to spell ‘bump cancer’.

However, some decided to send a message to their sports rivals by rearranging four of the letters to spell out the word ‘rape’, before posting a picture on Snapchat with the caption, “What we do to Daniel”.

The picture was shared on Facebook by a local group, Anderson 5 Citizens for Quality Education, which describes itself as a “non-partisan group of concerned parents, students and citizens from Anderson, SC, School District 5”.

According to the group, the picture had been distributed widely by the original poster, before being screenshot and shared further on social media.

The Touchdowns Against Cancer games are part of a programme to raise awareness of and funds for childhood cancer, while this particular game also marked the district’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night.

A caption alongside the image read: “Needless to say, using the threat of rape, even as analogy, is not behaviour that any school or any parent should (or hopefully would) condone.

“Rape culture in high school and college is a real threat to many students. The juxtaposition of a violent message with the breast cancer awareness symbology is of particular concern. The assumption these young men seem to have made is that their position and privilege allows them to make ‘jokes’ about rape as a viable threat.”


Read more: These rape prevention tips are going viral for all the right reasons


The group called for “swift and immediate disciplinary action” and added that it was concerned no steps had been taken on the night: “We trust that the school administration, the district and the parents involved would never condone either that implicit attitude or the behavior itself.

“We are puzzled, however, that no action seems to have been taken at the game, when these young men were standing proudly in front of attendees, the teams, and the coaching staff.”

Kyle Newton, director of external affairs for the district, told huffingtonpost.com that the Westside school principal was made aware of the issue on the evening of the game and the four students – two sophomores and two seniors, meaning they’re probably between 15 and 18 years of age – were soon identified.

He said the parents of all four had met with the principal and that the students had been punished. The disciplinary action has not been revealed, but the boys have not been expelled.

Newton added: “We are very disappointed in their actions.

“At best, what they did was extremely offensive – at worst it could be traumatic to those who have suffered sexual assault. There is no place in any school or in any community for those types of actions.”

The school district's superintendent Tom Wilson also, telling local news outlet WYFF News 4 that he was surprised to learn that the students were not known as “troublemakers”.


Read more: This woman’s explanation of consent is pretty much perfect


“Oddly enough, all four are great students,” Wilson said. “They’ve never been in any trouble. They’re not troublemakers. They’re probably some of the best students there.”

He added: “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I was a high school principal, and if you can figure out inside the brain of a 16- or 17-year-old, why they make certain decisions and they do what they do sometimes – but I do believe that the intent was not an aggressive way.

“It was just a bad decision that they made to put this offensive term that certain offends a lot of people, and that we agree was inappropriate and not what we want to represent Westside or District 5.”

While he expressed shock, it’s perhaps unsurprising that even so-called “best students” think such a joke wouldn’t be controversial, given the normalisation of sexual assault and ownership of women’s bodies in our society.

From the “only touched her bum” defence of ‘minor’ incidents to the idea that undressing and digitally penetrating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster is nothing more than “20 minutes of action” that shouldn’t ruin someone’s promising swimming career, to the now-US president bragging his fame means he can grab women “by the pussy”, the attitude is pervasive – but calling out and dealing with incidents like this means it’s hopefully one being gradually addressed.

If you have been subject to sexual assault, call 999 to report it to police

For support or information on rape and sexual assault, visit nhs.ukgov.uk and rapecrisis.org.uk

Image: Elijah Henderson

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