I actually thought that I had misread the article when I first read it. It described the horrific gang rape of an 11-year-old in the Texas town of Cleveland. Eighteen young men and teenagers have been charged with the rape that is alleged to have started in a house and eventually moved to a deserted trailer nearby. I am sure that this kind of vicious crime occurs all too often in our country, but there is one thing that makes this crime a little different. Many of the townspeople are blaming the eleven year old girl for her own gang rape!
“The video led the police to an abandoned trailer, more evidence and, eventually, to a roundup over the last month of 18 young men and teenage boys on charges of participating in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in the abandoned trailer home, the authorities said. Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. A few of the others have criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old. 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? “ New York Times How can a newspaper like the New York Times ask the question “…how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?” when the victim is an eleven year old girl?
Has society returned to the day that a female victim cannot say No to forced sex? Have we returned to the day when an 11-year-old girl is berated in public forums for allegedly enticing these adults and teenagers into threatening to harm the young girl if she didn’t have sex with them? “A meeting Thursday night that was billed as a way to discuss concerns some have about the investigation into a series of alleged sexual assaults on an 11-year-old girl turned into a forum that many used to blame the girl police contend is the victim of heinous attacks. Many who attended the meeting said they supported the group of men and boys who have been charged in the case. Supporters didn’t claim that the men and boys did not have sex with the young girl; instead they blamed the girl for the way she dressed or claimed she must have lied about her age — accusations that have drawn strong responses from those who note an 11-year-old cannot consent to sex and that it doesn’t matter how she was dressed.” Houston Chronicle
The fact that an 11-year-old girl was victimized had no effect on many in the crowd. Lost in their attack on her was the legal issued raised above. A minor cannot consent to sex and her mode of dress is irrelevant to the crimes alleged against these 18 different students and adults. How can a society even suggest that a young girl can consent to anything, let alone forced sex with at least 18 different individuals? One writer, quoting a definition of rape culture from the book, Transforming a Rape Culture,(WomenandChildrenFirst) suggests that we are fostering a new rape culture in America that actually encourages this kind of behavior and violence against women and in this case young girls. “A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.” ShakespeareSister
I am not sure that we have ever gotten past the day when women are blamed for being raped by their attackers. If we have, this incident and the town’s reaction to it indicate that we are returning to a violent past or creating a new rape culture. Could there be a connection to this “rape culture” and the War on Women that we have highlighted in past articles?