On Tues., March 8, the New York Times ran the story “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town.” Reporter James C. McKinley Jr. reports about 18 young men and teenage boys who were arrested for participating in the rape of an 11-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer home.
Instead of focusing on what can be done — to prevent future crimes from occurring; to educate youth in the community; and to support the survivor — McKinley’s story includes information about:
- where the victim spends time with friends;
- how she dresses;
- with whom she spends her time;
- location of her parents; and
- how this crime will affect the boys’ lives.
Rape is never acceptable. Social norms — based on ideas about type of clothing, the area of the assault and who the victim affiliates with — perpetuate rape. Rape is one of the only crimes in which a victim has to prove one’s innocence. Victims of sexual violence deserve the same type of justice that a burglary victim or a robbery victim receive. No one asks a robbery victim, “What did you do to bring this on?” Victims of crime or abusive treatment are not at all responsible for transgressions committed against them.
The blog-o-sphere is paying attention to this story. It has been mentioned by HeyLadies!, Change.org and all over Twitter. There needs to be more voices of victim advocates to dispel myths about sexual violence.
A similar story occurred in 2009 at a high school in Richmond, Calif. A 15-year-old girl was raped outside of her homecoming dance. Her friend invited her to a courtyard area on campus to drink alcohol with him and his friends. A large group of males reportedly beat her, robbed her and sexually assaulted her while others stood by and watched. As many as 20 people watched or took part in the crime. Although there was positive support from community members, high school students and staff at the local rape crisis center, there was, also, a great deal of victim blaming: People said she was “asking for trouble” and “Perhaps the boys are not all to blame. The young lady had one too many.”
These statements are not only appalling, but also sad. In both instances, a child was hurt. No matter which way you look at it, these are tragic situations that must be met with solutions for the future. There is no overnight fix, but talking about rape is the first step. It can mean partnering with a local rape crisis center or community organization to facilitate a discussion with youth about consent, healthy relationships, bystander intervention and preventing sexual violence in schools, at home and among friends. As victim advocates — online, at work and in the community — we must spread the message that no matter what, under any circumstance, rape is never acceptable.