Three high school basketball players in Tennessee were charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in late December after allegedly hazing a 15-year-old teammate, according to multiple reports.
A family member of the alleged victim told the Chattanoogan that the three boys, all of whom were students at Ooltewah High School in Ooltewah, Tenn., used a wooden pool stick to “sodomize” him, adding that the boy “had to undergo emergency surgery, as his colon and bladder were ruptured.” The family member said the boy “is expected to recover within two to three months” but “he is having nightmares” and “has stated that he thought that he was going to die as a result of the assault.”
Two mothers of players on the team spoke to the Chattanooga Times Free Press after the alleged assault, suggesting their boys were also bullied by older teammates during the same trip during which the incident took place. They claimed four boys on the trip were “punched, kicked, thrown to the ground, and hit with pool cues,” according to the paper, but the mothers said their sons returned uninjured.
“Horseplay is one thing; to ram an object in someone’s rectum is to cause harm,” said one of the mothers. “It’s not regular behavior.”
The Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it, along with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, will “investigate allegations” of previous assaults prior to the one in December. Though the office said no formal complaints have been filed as of yet, “recent media reports cite family members of [Ooltewah High School] freshmen basketball players who accuse upperclass teammates of an ongoing pattern of assaults allegedly committed under the guise of hazing.”
According to WRCB-TV, Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith confirmed that the three students accused of committing the assault will not be returning to the school. One is a senior, and the other two are sophomores, while the alleged victim is a freshman. The news outlet also reported the alleged victim was released from the hospital after an eight-day stay, and he’s “doing better, trying to walk,” according to his grandmother.
Over 100 graduates of the high school sent a letter to Smith, the district’s assistant superintendent, the school’s principals, and members of the district’s school board requesting a full independent investigation into the alleged attack, per the Chattanoogan.
“We want to know why these children were left in harm’s way,” they wrote, “especially if bullying by the perpetrators was reported prior to the sexual assault. How can the atmosphere on a high school sports team be so toxic as to lead to a potentially life-threatening sexual assault? Our concerns are not only for the victim but also for all of the current and previous students of Ooltewah schools. Are these children learning about sexual violence prevention? If not, how can we be assured that students, both male and female, are safe from rape and sexual assault? Are members of the school board, teachers, and coaches willing to stop such violence and hold perpetrators accountable?”
The school board has a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss “consideration of action regarding the Ooltewah High boys’ basketball team and for review of school board policy and procedures regarding bullying and hazing,” according to WRCB-TV.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.