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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

(You know how some people post spoiler alerts for movie reviews? This post is about sexual assualt, so I'd like to warn those for whom stories like this serve as a trigger for past trauma. Still with me? OK, here we go.)

Police in Cleveland, Texas, have determined that an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in late November by a group of 18 men and boys in an abandoned trailer. The New York Times published an article about it today:

The police investigation began shortly after Thanksgiving, when an elementary school student alerted a teacher to a lurid cellphone video that included one of her classmates...

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 shaming of the victim has already begun. The Times cited residents of the community where the girl was raped who claim that the victim "dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s."

“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.”

That same thread appears in an AOL article about the case:

Some are pointing a finger at the victim's parents.

"Where were they when this girl was seen wandering at all hours with no supervision and pretending to be much older?" Cleveland resident Kisha Williams told the Chronicle.

International Women's Day was yesterday, yet the shaming of sexual assault victims rolls on unabated.

I say this as someone who benefits daily, directly or indirectly, from male privilege. Nothing about my appearance will make me more apt to be raped, but yet an 11-year-old girl who may have worn some makeup and "dressed older than her age" is a target for those reasons? There is no gender equality if this idea continues to thrive, especially in the minds of women like those two who were quoted.

Pause and take a step back: if an 11-year-old girl who was raped by more than a dozen guys is being blamed, at what point does it not become the victim's fault? How many perpetrators does it take? How does she need to have been dressed at the time? And how young does she need to be to not only not be blamed, but to get sympathy?

“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

Those poor guys. They must feel really awful.


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