Saturday, March 12, 2011

Victim Blaming in Cleveland, Texas Gang Rape of 11 Year Old...

by Joanna

An 11- year old girl in Cleveland, TX was gang raped by up to 28 men over the Thanksgiving holiday, and now, she is the one coming under attack in her community and in the media.
The assaults happened Nov. 28 after a 19-year-old with prior drug convictions persuaded the young girl to leave her house and go "riding around" with him and two other young men, according to a Cleveland police officer's sworn statement.
They first went to the blue house, where she was ordered to disrobe. If she refused, the statement said, she was warned other girls would beat her up and she would never get a ride back home.
Soon she was having sex with multiple young men there, the statement said. Someone used a phone to invite four more men, who soon arrived.
Not long afterward, the group fled through a back window when they heard a relative of one of the teens arriving at the blue house. The 11-year-old left behind her bra and panties as the group moved to the nearby abandoned trailer, where the assaults continued. As the men had sex with the girl, others used their cell phones to take photographs and video, police said.

Over the next two days, the recordings went viral around school. One student who recognized the girl and several of the young men, including star athletes, in the videos, alerted school authorities and triggered the investigation. SOURCE

Having sex with an eleven year old is WRONG. I do not care if she “asked for it”. I do not care if she has had sex partners previously. I don’t care if she “looks like she is grown”. I don’t care if she is “fast”. She is eleven, and if a teenage boy or a grown ass man has sex with her, he is a rapist and a child molester. There is a reason that a child is not able, according to the law, to consent to participate in sexual activities. A child’s mind is not capable of using the same decision making process as an adult.

This story is about a little girl who was raped by up to 28 teen boys and grown men. Yet, the members of her local community AND the media seem to want to make this story more about what SHE and her parents supposedly did wrong.

CLEVELAND - All Maria wanted was to see her 11-year-old daughter.

Weeks ago, the girl had been hushed away to a "safe house" for her own protection - after the phone calls started, and the disturbing, sexually explicit videos began surfacing in this town of 9,000 about 50 miles north of downtown Houston.

Seventeen men and boys, including a middle school student and adults in their 20s, have been charged with sexually assaulting Maria's daughter, a sixth-grader, in a dingy trailer. That number could grow to 28.

Last week, while hospitalized for an illness, Maria finally received a brief visit from the girl.

"My daughter was crying and crying and hugging on me," Maria said. "She didn't want to leave. She misses her family and wants to come home."

But the family's tiny gray wooden home off a long, dark forested road on the outskirts of town is no longer considered safe for the 11-year-old. Child Protective Services put the girl in a foster home for her protection and restricted her family from even speaking to her, the family said.

Local officials say the attack has devastated this close-knit community, leaving many to wonder who will be charged next. There's talk that a star athlete at Cleveland High School was seen sexually assaulting the girl on the video. The son of a local school board member is involved, too.

Someone has been making phone calls to Maria's house. Police fear they're coming from people seeking retribution.

"They keep calling and asking for her," said Maria, whose last name is not being printed to protect her daughter's identity. "They don't believe me when I say she's not here and cuss us out. They're trying to find her. This is the time when she needs us the most." SOURCE

Now, there are several issues in this story that pop out at me. First of all, the Cleveland community seems to feel more empathy for the men and boys who assaulted this little girl then they do for the child who was raped. The boys and men are described according to their ties to the community… “a star athlete” and “the son of a local school board member”. And as for the little girl? Well, the writer is careful to point out that a local resident mentions that the little girl looked older than her age, because of her long hair and makeup. Another resident blamed the little girl’s parents, asking “Where were they when this girl was seen wandering at all hours with no supervision and pretending to be much older?” A better question would be “What sort of teenage boy or grown man thinks it is OK to have sex with a child?” Later in the article, the writer mentions that the girl talks about “drinking, smoking and sex” on her Facebook page, as if that makes her rape more acceptable.

Now, even if this child DID look older than her years, there was no way to mistake her actual age. This is a town of 9,000, which has been described as “close knit”. These boys and men were familiar with this little girl. They had to have known she was only eleven. Apparently, they just did not care.

It seems to me like this whole town is sick. Not only did up to 28 boys and men believe that is was OK to rape a little girl, but the video they took of the event went viral at the local high school. And now the little girl is facing threats from community members? This is victim blaming at its worst.

An article that ran in the New York Times (which later apologized after public pressure) was even worse in its expression of empathy for the perpetrators and its use of  "blame the victim" tactics:

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.”....
.....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.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?” SOURCE

"How could their young men have been drawn into such an act?" Wow, "drawn into"... as if they were unwilling participants in the rape of this child. Is the writer trying to say that, somehow, this little girl did SOMETHING that caused these young men to victimize her? Did this CHILD entice a group of older teens and grown ass men  into raping her? Why is the reporter trying to frame the story in a way that makes it seem like the men are the victims instead of the perpetrators?

Now, I have to wonder how differently this story would be described if this had involved a little white girl? I am confident that the entire country would be up in arms about this story, and no mention would be made about the girl looking and acting older. No one would be describing her Facebook comments. She would be portrayed as a sweet innocent child who was unfairly taken advantage of. Why is this child not getting the same treatment? Just another example of how nonwhite girls and women are seen as being overly sexual beings that do not deserve to be afforded the same respect as white females.

I know some members of the community believe that the boys and men involved in this assault are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement because they are young Black men. Because, as we all know, Black men ARE commonly victims of overzealous police determined to keep Black men behind bars. But, in this case, these young men ARE NOT innocent victims of the system. They were videotaped having sex with a child. They spread this video throughout the entire town. They are not being randomly targeted for harassment by police. They did immeasurable harm to a little girl who deserved a hell of a lot better.

This child deserves much more from the people who live in her community. She does not deserve to be forced out of her own home out of concern for her safety. She does not deserve to be labeled as anything other than an innocent child who was victimized by older boys and men who decided that they were going to use and abuse her, and discard her when they were done. I wish I could give this little girl back her lost innocence. Since I cannot, I can only offer my sincere wish that she is able to recover from this trauma and become a strong young lady.


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