Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gang-Raped on School Grounds

Gang-Raped on School Grounds

She is 15 years old. She is gang-raped. On school grounds. For two hours. She is also beaten and robbed. There are at least a dozen people who may have been witnesses, watchers, observers. Not one of them, it is reported, calls 911.

Rape is a weapon of war. It happens in places called Rwanda, in Darfur in the Sudan, in the Congo and Chad and Liberia and Sierra Leone, in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzogovina. It's taken place in Vietnam. It's happened in Iraq. It's happening now, probably, somewhere in Afghanistan.

It happens in America, too. In 2002, it happened at least 95,136 times. That's just the number of known incidents.

Just the other day gang-rape happened in a town called Richmond in a state called California in the United States of America.

The United States are not united against this; every state's law defines just a little diferently the act of sexual assault and how it deserves to be punished.

The world is not united against this crime against humanity. The UN is still making "recommendations" on how to stop it.

In the meantime, females — children, teens, adult women, married and not —want for a mandate from God.

The 15-year-old, according to the AP wire report, was attending her high school's homecoming dance. When she left the dance in the school gym, setting out to walk however far she needed to go to get to her father's car, to get inside where steel might make her she safe for her ride home from homecoming, someone said to be a friend asked her to come and have a drink. So it's reported. Apparently, she did; she went to drink, consuming more than she should.

The fact that a 15-year-old female at a high school dance might drank is important. It's just not so important as her gang-rape is.

The facts, such as they might be, are that the 15-year-old never made it to her ride home, that five or six males — who knows the real number? — and I can't call them men — had more than their way with her. They beat her to bare consciousness, they robbed her, they gang-raped her, one after the other took her trust and the thing women are taught to understand is a gift of love and then left her in a place on the school grounds where students gather at cement tables and do whatever students do when they're not in class learning. They left her on the ground beneath a bench. In the dirt.

Inside the gym at Richmond High School, some four police officers and three school administrators were monitoring the moves of the students who danced. The gym, it's reported, was not near the place where a 15-year-old can learn a truth about the kind of evil that can stalk a young girl when she goes out at night, alone. No one rushed to tell the officers and administrators inside the gym that something else was going on, outside, that they might want to know about.

Someone finally called police, though not one of the alleged dozen or so who are reported to have witnessed or seen or observed something near a cement table, not one of the ones who stood ground while the males gang-raped. The caller said there was a man without a shirt, running — running who knows where? one can hope away from himself. The caller, the police reported,  expressed concern for a female, too.

Acting on the tip, police went to the place where the caller said to look, they saw, and gave chase to five, maybe six males. Just one at the time failed to elude the officers: a 19-year-old, not a student at the school, who's now unable to post $800,000 bail. Yesterday, Monday, October 26, 2009, the police took into custody a 15-year-old, said to be one of the several alleged assailants. But I'm ahead of myself. Well before that, a medical crew landed a helicopter on the school grounds and flew the 15-year-old to hospital. Barely conscious, maybe even unconscious by then, she'd been savagely beaten, robbed, gang-raped. Left in the dirt.

Left in America's soil.

Rape is a weapon of war and, according to the United Nations, in some circumstances, rape is an act of genocide and a crime against humanity.

What do we call gang-rape in America, where we supposedly are not at war with each other?

And if the 15-year-old makes it, will that ability of hers to live through and out this too-early Halloween nightmare mitigate what happened to her?

I have a few other questions, too. Like these, for example:

Did the father who was coming to give the girl a ride home go looking for her? Did he dial a cellphone trying to reach her? Did his heart skip a beat when she didn't answer? Did he call home asking if maybe she was already there?

Did the four police officers and three school administrators monitoring the dancing inside ever think when they were planning security that maybe being only inside isn't good enough protection?

Who among those who watched or observed or saw or happened by any part of two hours of the gang-raping of a 15-year-old considers him- or herself a Christian? Do you stand in church on Sunday and hear the Gospel, take the wafer in your mouth and drink the wine? Or text-message what you'd rather be doing?

Who among the five, maybe six who joined the gang-raping was taught right from wrong? And when? How did you learn the lesson? Or is your defense going to be that you had nothing better to do, that the dance was boring, that you were looking for action and the girl was drunk and asking for "it"? And when you lined up to take your turn, did you even hesitant, even once? Was there no voice inside urging no? No mind recalling the "thou shall nots" of your early church teaching? No heart feeling the slightest twinge for the 15-year-old who lost more than virginity that night?

Remember Kitty Genovese? New York in the 1960s? I do, and I wasn't yet 12 at the time. Her story on a spring night, on March 13, 1964, to be exact, lives on, even though she doesn't. It was reported at the time that she was stabbed repeatedly, sexually assaulted, and robbed in the early hours of the morning, that dozens had heard her screams and not one picked up a phone. The facts, such as they were told then, are disputed a bit now; most recently, they've been clarified here. No matter. If even one person in that Queens neighborhood heard and did not call for help, does not that entire community share blame?

The United Nations has called the Sudanese government's efforts to "stem the wave of sexual abuse" a "dismal failure." CARE reiterates that in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo the use of rape as a weapon of war "must stop." It, too, has "practical" steps to end sexual violence in conflict.

I have a question. Why is ending sexual assault, sexual violence, attacks on women and girls, gender abuse, gender-based violence, rape — how many words do we need for the same thing? —the business of governments alone?

If it is true, as it is said, that we are made in God's image, shouldn't we all be asking the same one question: why didn't I call?


The crime described above is true. I first read about it late yesterday on AOL; click here for the updated story. I also saw this morning a number of other reports, including this one and this one.

Another interesting version of the Kitty Genovese story is found here.

Statistics on rape of women in places of armed conflict (think about that phrase in this context) and individual countries are readily available online.

The UN adopted, in June 2008, Security Resolution 1820, signaling its commitment to end rape in conflict zones [my emphasis added].


Sarah Salter said...

I'm astonished and outraged at this, as I can see you are, too. You wrote very passionately and I have to say thank you for taking the time to open your heart here. Any and every time we can bring this kind of violence and hatred forward and put a spotlight on it is an opportunity to educate people and ignite their passion about it as well.

If you don't mind, I wanted to make a couple of other observations. First, according to the American Medical Association, 20% of girls between the ages of 14-19 have been physically or sexually abused by a "friend" or "boyfriend." But second of all, the girls aren't the only ones being abused. According to the US Dept. of Justice, 11% of sexual assault victims are male.

We, as human beings and children of God, need to force our eyes open and look into the lives of those around us. We all know somebody who has been, is being, or will be hurt. Let us sow seeds of healing and wholeness into each other's lives.

Anonymous said...

the people that did this are very lost. and i know that some people will do things when with others along that they would never do if they were alone. the gang mentality of it being like a family that cares where there is none otherwise. yet, there is still no one for them to look to for good direction.

the more children that are lost, the more that will be taken down with them.

yes, we are at war.

Ned said...

Google:Dr Jackson Katz. Just last week I attended one of his lectures as part of a symposium for the advancement of women.

Maureen said...

Sarah, thank you for sharing the statistics. Numbers also speak loudly.

Nancy, I appreciate your comments. This morning I read that as many as 20 individuals might have been witnesses to the two-hour ordeal. I will never understand how even one could stand there and do nothing to bring the crime to a stop.

Ned, thank you. I was not familiar with Dr. Katz. I did look him up. For those interested, Dr. Katz's site is http://www.jacksonkatz.com. He blogs for Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hello Maureen, I remember sometime ago researching rape and war -- it is considered a 'strategic tactic' in some places. It destabilizes both the male and female population. And, to have children born of rape demoralizes nations.

It is tragic.

What you write of is inexplicable. I wish there was some way to understand. But there isn't. It is the loss of so much that should be cherished in our society. In our psyches. In our hearts and souls. It is an inexplicable loss.

thank you for caring so much you wrote this piece. You touched my soul.