Damascus community coping with rape charges against JV football players

Damascus community coping with charges against JV football players. (Photo: Victoria Sanchez, ABC7)

One day after five junior varsity football players were charged with raping fellow teammates by allegedly using a broomstick, the Damascus community is trying to grapple with the hazing and sexual assault.

About 40 community members including parents, children and a pastor, gathered for a candlelight vigil to pray for the victims, their parents, the school and alleged perpetrators.

Damascus is a town of about 15,000 in Montgomery County. One resident said many of the people grew up there and attended Damascus High School have children that go there or soon will be a Hornet. That connection makes the news of alleged hazing even more painful.

The JV football players were charged with raping four of their fellow male teammates on Halloween.

In a letter to the Montgomery County Public School Community released Saturday, superintendent Jack Smith wrote about the “serious situation” where the students were charged with second-degree rape and attempted second-degree rape.

“These charges stem from alleged behavior by members of the junior varsity football team in the school’s male locker room after dismissal,” Smith wrote.

“As Damascus principal Casey Crouse shared with her community earlier this week, this alleged behavior is disturbing, inappropriate and unacceptable. In response to these allegations, the Damascus High School junior varsity team forfeited their final game of the season last Thursday. MCPS does not and will not tolerate any form of hazing, bullying or harassment in our schools,” the letter said.

After prayers and hugs in the near darkness at the Damascus Community Center playground, the residents left and did not want to talk on camera about the situation and pain the community is feeling.

Counselors will be at the high school next week for student support.

Authorities are pursuing all five cases within the juvenile court system. This will prevent the suspects’ identities from being released.

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