This post is a bit off topic, but because of my strong feelings about the way this situation was portrayed in the paper, I am addressing it.
Yesterday’s NY Times ran a horrifying story about an 11 year old girl who was gang raped in a small Texas town. This is unspeakably awful – it seems that 18 young men took part over two locations and a period of several hours. The perpetrators ranged in age from “middle school” (so what, 12 or 13?) to a 27 year old. 5 of the suspects are members of the Cleveland TX high school basketball team. Another is 21 and the son of a school board member. Several others have previous criminal records. Authorities became aware of the crime in part because some of the men took videos on their cell phones and flashed them around.
Ok, I think we can all agree that this would be every parents’ worst nightmare. Or at least in the top 2 or 3. It is also an extremely rare occurrence. (by which I mean the gang rape of 11 year old girls. Thank god.) As I was reading the article, I got angry. Because the crime is so heinous? Yes, but also because of the way the people in the community immediately began making excuses for the boys and men involved. The quote reads:
“Residents in the neighborhood…known as the Quarters, said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing make up and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20’s. She would hang out with teenage boys at the playground.”
Ohhh, well, if she dressed older than her age and wore make up then I guess she had it coming, didn’t she? Except rape is illegal no matter what the age of the victim, so excusing the men involved by saying the girl dressed older than her age is beyond lame. It’s the old, “she’s a tease” defense. Can’t you just hear the defense attorney saying to the judge, “Why sir, these are upstanding, God-fearing young men. But what can you expect when a young woman- and make no mistake, she presented herself as a young woman with experience – wears revealing clothing and flirts suggestively with my clients?”
Then the article identifies another culprit. The Mother!! Of course. It is all her fault, you know. Here is a concerned neighbor of the victim as quoted in the Times article:
“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?”
Well I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Hey I’ll just neglect my daughter and allow her to be gang raped.” Please, please STOP making excuses for the men involved in the crime. Because that’s what they are – excuses by people who don’t want to believe that young men they actually know could do something so disgusting.
It doesn’t matter how the girl dressed or who she hung out with. It doesn’t matter that she was in a lower income area visiting friends who were older than her. It doesn’t matter that her mother let her wear what she wore and go the places she went. There is NO EXCUSE that will justify 18 men doing that to any female person, no matter what her age.
I understand why parents – particularly mothers – are overprotective of their kids. It is partly because somewhere along the way people began blaming mothers for anything bad that happens to a child. There is a fear that if your kid gets hurt in any way you will be seen as a neglectful parent. I wish I could say that is a paranoid, unfounded fear, but this Times article plainly shows that it is not. How sad for us as a society that we cannot even admit that sometimes people do despicable things – even people we know. Instead we are so cowardly that we feel the need to find fault where there is none – in an 11 year old girl and her mother.