Say you knew a pre-teen child who dressed more provocatively than most girls her age, spent most of her time with teenaged boys, and was known to visit friends who lived in neighbourhoods with poor reputations. Would you be worried about her? Would you think that she was insufficiently supervised by her parents?
Would you believe that she deserved whatever happened to her because she was obviously asking for it?
Many residents of Cleveland Texas do. An 11-year-old girl in their town was picked up by a 19-year-old man, brought to the house of a friend, and ordered to take off her clothes (under threat of beating). She was repeatedly sexually assaulted by several boys. The assaults continued at an abandoned trailer. Between 18 and 28 boys and young men kept this girl confined, repeatedly raped her, videotaped the assaults, and shared them with their friends.
The incident is “really tearing [the] community apart,” and there’s a concern that “these boys will have to live with this for the rest of their lives.” How do I have access to these quotes from community members who have more sympathy for the rapists than for the very little girl in this story? The New York Times graciously supplied them.
And the paper’s spokesperson (see end of article) is unapologetic about the spin of the article.
The girl is ELEVEN. In the state of Texas, the legal age of sexual consent is 17. No matter how she dressed or how unsupervised she was or how many boys she hung out with, she is still not legally able to give consent to sexual activity in her state. The NYT article never mentioned this, even while giving air to ideas that she’d brought it on herself with her behaviour.
They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.
Does this mean that had she actually been in her 20s, would she have been asking to be gang-raped by close to THIRTY boys/men? The reporter gives no indication that he disagrees with the statements made by these neighbours (which are the same sort of statements that have been used for years to discredit the testimony of rape survivors who actually choose to press charges), just includes them in the article sans critique.
How this child dressed, who she chose as friends, and where she chose to be with those friends did not give those boys and men the right to rape her. It is not this child’s fault she was raped, nor is it her mother’s fault for not forcing her to stay closer to home. The only people who made all of those boys and young men brutally assault her are the boys and men who brutally assaulted her.
Sunday April 3, 2011 is the Toronto Slut Walk. I was waffling about going before this news story broke, but I’m committed to attending now. I’ll be bringing my children with me. It’s never too early to learn about body autonomy and self-expression, and that no one has the right to do anything to us without our express consent, regardless of any other factors.