Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the New York Times: Blaming the 11-year-old victim of a gang rape?

An awful story this morning from Texas, where 18 young men and teen boys are under suspicion for gang-raping an 11-year-old girl—under threat of being beaten if she didn't comply. The story includes this paragraph:
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
I try to avoid using this language in public, mostly, but I think it might be appropriate here: Fuck. That. Shit.

This paragraph doesn't explicitly say that the 11-year-old girl brought a gang rape under threat of beating upon herself, but it certainly implies it. And it does so, as far as I can tell, without any pushback from a responsible person who might say, quite reasonably: "No matter how an 11-year-old girl dresses, there is never a reason or an excuse or any kind of mitigation for threatening to beat a woman and then raping her. Ever."

Instead, the story we're treated to is one in which we exclusively from people who feel some level of sympathy for the rapists:
The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
The Times, I gather, didn't make contact with the girl or her mother. Still, it would've been nice to have this story feature the voice of somebody saying, essentially, "This girl will have to live with this the rest of her life." We never do. Instead, we're treated to a version of adolescent slut-shaming. The Times can and should do much better than this.

1 comment:

april said...

I agree, very poorly written and in poor judgment. The girl is in a safe house though, and even if she weren't I'm not sure how I'd feel about her talking to the press. Too young. She should be receiving treatment, not messing with them.

This Houston Chronicle story is much more in-depth and focuses on the mother:

It in no way excuses what these guys did, but why would Child Protective Services not allow the parents to communicate with the child? I'm confused about this.