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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » NYTimes blames eleven-year-old for her gang rape.

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Author Topic: NYTimes blames eleven-year-old for her gang rape.
mizchastain
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I found this posted by a user known as lavenderfrost on Livejournal. I reworded some parts to remove profanity as I don't want to break any rules here.

"NYTimes reported on the gang rape of an eleven-year-old girl in Texas that's led to charges against 18 high-school boys so far - all well and good so far, right? This NEEDS publicity to raise awareness.

Only problem is, they repeated - without refutation or critical commentary - the claims that the girl brought the rape on herself because of the way she was dressed.

Choice Quotes:

"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."

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."

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?


Here's how to contact NYT:
http://www.nytimes.com/membercenter/emailus.html
Form to email them.

letters@nytimes.com
In case you want your email to be published as a letter to the editor. Make sure you include your name, address, and telephone number.

Also consider this nifty Change.org petition asking the NYTimes to apologize for their victim-blaming."

I really want to email the NYTimes about this, but I'm not very good with words, so can anyone suggest anything I could say which would get my disgust across without sounding too vitriolic to be taken seriously?

[ 03-13-2011, 05:53 AM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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OWL Dan
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Mizchastain,

Have you read this article in the NYTs? If not, please be careful about posting secondhand information. I have just read the actual article and I can see how it could be interpreted as the NYT blaming the victim, but I also read it as the NYT reporting what was told to them by members of the community and that they were the ones who blamed the victim and her mother.

Either way, it is tragic that anyone is blaming the victim! I do agree that the NYTs could have and probably should have left out the parts where they were told the victim was to blame, but they at least keep the part about where the victim was threatened to be beaten if she did not comply. Members, please read the article for yourselves and then decide if the NYTs should be called out for including the comments of blaming the victim.

Actual NYT's Article

[ 03-13-2011, 07:21 AM: Message edited by: OWL Dan ]

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Dan

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Heather
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I absolutely agree they should be called out and did so myself last week through several different avenues, including the Change.org petition. (Unfortunately, being very vocal about this also meant I got to get harassed by a rape enabler and victim blamer on Twitter, which seriously sucked, especially as a survivor of gang assault at a young age, but it's a testament, really to how much we're still steeped in rape culture.)

While I was only so impressed with their apology, they did issue one the other day, and clearly seemed to feel -- though I think they could have stood to have taken more responsibility than they did -- that indeed, they really screwed up.

That's here: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/gang-rape-story-lacked-balance/

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OWL Dan
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I am really happy to hear that the NYTs actually printed an apology!!! It is a good start in the right direction at least.

Heather, Sorry to hear about the harassment; at least they know that there are people willing to stand up for what is right!

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Dan

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Heather
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Also, I thought this piece at Mother Jones summed up the issues with that piece really well: http://motherjones.com/rights-stuff/2011/03/new-york-times-texas-rape

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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mizchastain
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I'm just sick that anyone would even vaguely imply that an eleven-year-old child provoked an attack on herself in any way. I know they can't reveal the names of anyone involved, but I sort of wish I knew who the kid was so I could send a letter of support or something. I know that probably sounds creepy, but I just wish I could tell her so many people are on her side.
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Cesario
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What irks me is that in reading about this story on several other sites, people seem to keep overlooking the fact that they threatened to beat her if she didn't comply. That's an absolutely critical point in this story, and even with it right in front of them, they read the story, saw the talk about how she was dressed and the fact that she was hanging out with older men and they assumed it was just a statutory rape.

I recall something similar happening with the Roman Polanski case when I've seen it discussed. How often does mentioning the victim's age create the idea in people's minds that it's a statutory rather than violent rape? How useful is it to mention the victim's age when we are talking about something that would still be called rape if the victim was full grown and legally allowed to consent?

[ 03-18-2011, 07:42 PM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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Jill2000Plus
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Cesario, I see your point, but among the rapists were a 19, 21, and 27 year old, that anyone could seriously think there is anything more than the most miniscule possibility of an 11 year old consenting to have sex with a 19 year old says quite enough on it's own. With the Roman Polanski case, one person I talked to said that he'd heard the girl was 16 (rather than 13), and that he didn't know she'd been drugged or that she said words to the effect of no (don't do this or stop or no or something else like that), I get the impression that some people deliberately spread misinformation intended to get people on the rapist's side even setting aside the statutory part.

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Cesario
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quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:
Cesario, I see your point, but among the rapists were a 19, 21, and 27 year old, that anyone could seriously think there is anything more than the most miniscule possibility of an 11 year old consenting to have sex with a 19 year old says quite enough on it's own.

I feel somewhat constrained in discussing this aspect of your post.
quote:
Originally posted by Jill2000Plus:

With the Roman Polanski case, one person I talked to said that he'd heard the girl was 16 (rather than 13), and that he didn't know she'd been drugged or that she said words to the effect of no (don't do this or stop or no or something else like that), I get the impression that some people deliberately spread misinformation intended to get people on the rapist's side even setting aside the statutory part.

I imagine part of it is that the statutory part was what he plead to. I try not to attribute to malice what could be achieved with ignorance.
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Heather
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quote:
How often does mentioning the victim's age create the idea in people's minds that it's a statutory rather than violent rape? How useful is it to mention the victim's age when we are talking about something that would still be called rape if the victim was full grown and legally allowed to consent?
I've thought about this question for a few days, and I still don't think I can really answer it well.

I mean, ultimately, it's clear that any time anyone can wheedle their way out of taking responsibility for rape, they usually will. So there's that, and the "anyone" applies just as much to an individual as it does to our culture, I'd say. This story was clearly nothing close to being just about her age or about sex that would have been consensual if not for age disparities: this was a violent gang assault.

This story was covered so badly all around, but one of the things that actually bothered me most was how often a sympathetic response seemed to talk about the victim's age as if it would be okay had it happened to someone older. I think age was initially brought up in order to try and make clear how much MORE of a crime it was given her age, not less: I haven't seen what it seems you have in terms of it being broadly insinuated this was only about statutory rape.

That said, in a lot of ways, age does matter because we know full well (some of us from personal experience, too) that often the younger we are if and when sexual abuse and assault happens, the tougher it can be to process it and heal from it; younger people tend to internalize the abuse more than older people do as they have far less context and life experience to filter it through, and because your life experiences when we are younger often tend to be more formative than those when we are older. Mind, rape is a serious crime and trauma no matter how old you are, and should ideally be taken seriously no matter someone's age.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cesario
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I think part of it was that there was only a sentence or two in the articles I'd been linked to mentioning that she'd been threatened with violence. Presumably with a quick skim over the details a few of them missed that sentence, but picked up on the "woe is me, why would this young girl be with those older boys in the first place" hand wringing.

The part that makes it an actual assault rather than an age of consent violation was clear enough to me, but I was looking for it.

I often wonder whether we're doing a serious disservice to the discourse simply by having the term "statutory rape" in the first place. It seems to muddy the waters and water down the word rape just by its mere existence. The phrase "gang rape of an 11 year old girl" should be perfectly clear. It shouldn't need additional qualifiers. But the mere fact that she's 11 means that it would be put just that way if she'd been a perfectly willing partner in the ordeal, so we need it clarified that she wasn't a willing participant.

I also get the feeling that the people sent to jail over statutory crimes is feeding into this "those poor boys are going to have their lives ruined" sentiment that I've run across. Maybe it's because I'm not in this industry and just don't get the same exposure, but how often do you get that reaction to a "normal" rapist?

This isn't a "boys will be boys" bit of harmless fun or understandable irresponsibility. This isn't a bunch of kids being thrown away because of a mistake or social overreaction. This isn't a girl being led astray. This is a violent assault and it deserves to be treated as such.

I've never been particularly comfortable with the unspoken assumption when we get this "poor, innocent child victim" talk that this would be A-okay behavior if it happened to an adult. That there are people that deserve to be treated this way, just not this particular "innocent" victim. And the subsequent slut-shaming and digging into the victim's past looks to me like a way of attacking the victim within that paradigm. By saying "no, this person wasn't so innocent, so they're in that category of people it's okay to rape and abuse".

Maybe it is true that young children suffer more from an equal level of abuse versus adults, but I don't honestly believe that's the place this "she was only 11 years old" hand wringing comes from.

...

Well, reading that over again, I seem to be in a particularly pessimistic mood about people today.

[ 03-25-2011, 09:39 PM: Message edited by: Cesario ]

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Jill2000Plus
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Again, I see your point, but again, the chances of her freely consenting are very low considering the huge age difference and subsequent power imbalance, the reason people pull this "they're going to have their lives ruined" crap, is because they won't accept that boys that age are much more powerful than girls her age and it's wrong for them to abuse that power, of course what happened would be wrong if it happened to an adult, there's no question that this would be a textbook case of rape even if there weren't an age/power imbalance, and people are certainly ignoring that part of it due to rape apologism as well, but even if they hadn't threatened to beat her up, she's not even a teenager and some of them are legal adults, some of them are even old enough to be her father, and that does not bode well for the likelihood of free, uncoerced consent being given.

[ 03-26-2011, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Heather
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You know, I agree that "statutory rape" is a very problematic term. I don't think that's sound language, and do think that language could be improved. If and when someone did not consent or, for whatever reason, was not able to give meaningful consent, that's rape, period. If that reason was due to age or a power imbalance, I don't see how that's different than if, for instance, the reason someone couldn't give consent because they were intoxicated or held a knifepoint. And when, in a case, we want to talk about those specifics, we can talk about those specifics.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Jill2000Plus
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Sorry if I didn't make clear that my issue was with the age difference being argued to be irrelevant, I wasn't particularly arguing in favour of the use of the term "statutory rape".

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Cesario
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How does a power imbalance make someone unable to consent, exactly? If I'm big and strong, and could easily force someone to do whatever I want, does that mean it's rape even when I'm not raping someone?

Surely power imbalances make exploiting and abusing easier, but doesn't it require someone actually exploit or abuse someone?

Here we have a pretty clear-cut case of actual abuse, and it seems odd to talk about "the likelihood of free, uncoerced consent being given".

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