Culture · Human Rights · Trauma · Women

Suffer The (Girl) Children

In November 2010 an 11-year-old girl was gang raped by 19 boys and men, aged from 13-27, in a small town in Texas. On March 8, 2011 the New York Times broke this story after a teacher in the little girl’s elementary school saw a camera phone video of the rape that one of the other students possessed.

Instead of treating this disgusting brutalisation of a child as a heinous act, the New York Times proceeded to blame the victim through choice quotes from Cleveland residents, painting a picture of the girl as dressing older than her age, hanging out where she shouldn’t have been and even blaming her mother for not keeping a better eye on her. The New York Times defense is that they took no stance in blaming this gang rape victim, they merely reported what the residents said.

Really?! That’s their excuse?! So there was absolutely nobody in Cleveland who could take a level-headed view of a child’s gang rape? No police they could talk to? Maybe the teacher who saw the video? The school counsellor?

The fact that William McKinley and his editors CHOSE to print the quotes they did and structure the entire story around how terrible this must be for the rapists and pedophiles is evidence not just of the rape culture within we live but also the fact that the media is as Mother Jones magazine writes, “rape-friendly”. The fact that these insensitive and inappropriate choices slipped through the editorial cracks is proof positive that the New York Times, its writers and editors, think that an 11-year-old child can be held responsible for the actions of 19 rapists.

The Rumpus Magazine, in its “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence”, details the physical and emotional aftermath of a gang rape as follows (emphasis mine):

Gang rape is a difficult experience to survive physically and emotionally.  There is the exposure to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal and anal tearing, fistula and vaginal scar tissue. The reproductive system is often irreparably damaged. Victims of gang rape, in particular, have a higher chance of miscarrying a pregnancy. Psychologically, there are any number of effects including PTSD, anxiety, fear, coping with the social stigma, and coping with shame, and on and on. The actual rape ends but the aftermath can be very far reaching and even more devastating than the rape itself.

Being raped by one man is a real life horror movie. Being raped by 19 of them, while you are a pre-pubescent child, is unimaginable. Reading that the New York Times told the world that it was your fault is an unspeakable horror. Rape is never ever, no matter what the circumstances, ever a girl or woman’s fault.

I can’t do anything to help this little girl with all she must be going through and will for the rest of her life.

But I can withdraw my support from the New York Times. And I hold every single person who works there responsible for the heinous blaming of a child for her gang rape.

Nobody on the New York Times staff spoke out against this journalistic atrocity. Nobody called for the resignation of the man who so insensitively put together choice quotes that lay the responsibility of this crime in the hands of the brutalised child, or his editor who let that disgusting article go to press, or his editor and so on. Their response has been pathetic, at best, and worse it hasn’t even bothered to address the issues at hand or apologise to the little girl who has already been through too fucking much.

Since this story sent shockwaves through my heart and body, I am boycotting the New York Times.

As a writer and researcher I spend a great deal of my day reading articles, blogs and books, much of this online. I refuse to bring rape apologists into my cyberspace. You’ll notice I’ve not even linked to the actual New York Times article.

The New York Times have come to represent so much of what is wrong with this world and its pervasive hatred of women and girls. The New York Times is the mirror of our diseased society that panders to male perversity at the cost of female humanity.

An article published yesterday by the Houston Chronicle divulges there were actually four separate incidents in which this little girl was gang raped between September 1-December 1, 2010. My guess is the perpetrators wanted to keep her scared enough to not go to the police. Well done, perverts, she never did.

Anyone with post-traumatic stress disorder knows that after a trauma the biggest fear is that the event will happen again. I cannot begin to imagine the terror this girl lived in as she literally relived her nightmare over and over. I don’t want to imagine the physical and emotional devastation she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

My prayers are with that child, and her family. I pray that she finds a way through this, a way to put the pieces of her life together and move forward. I pray that she never goes through anything like this ever again. I pray one day she will be able to trust a man and revel in the beauty of a consensual relationship. Most importantly, I pray for her physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

As for her rapists: I recommend castration.

©Sezin Koehler, image via A Place To Talk About Rape

11 thoughts on “Suffer The (Girl) Children

  1. This is horrifying. I find it so hard to live in a world so eager to ignore stories like this. And the New York Times presenting such a reprehensible view, and one that is SO biased and obvious? I can hardly stand it. I hate this world. I utterly hate it.

  2. Sezin, Where have I been? Not checking your blog keeps me out of the loop. Your note that you couldn’t check a link to a NYT article that mentioned Zuzu’s Petals got me here this time. While reading the word Op-Ed pops into my mind repeatedly. Have you send your piece to the paper I wonder? An attack on their reporting may not get placed but the same piece directed at the way of reporting (in general) may! If not by the NYT by many other publications. This is not the first time that I think you ought to present your writing to a mainstream publication. More people (who aren’t in the loop of Zuzu’s Petals) ought to read about this monstrous happening. The question about capital punishment for rape in the U.S. is (somewhat) answered in an Online discussion (5th comment from the top, long expose by BillRM). Again, I think Op-Ed.

    1. Judith, that’s a really interesting idea. I’ve never really thought about doing that before, although I don’t want my words anywhere near the NYT. Surely there are other publications that would be interested…I’ll take a look around and see what I come up with. Thank you for reading and your ongoing support. 🙂

  3. I agree with Catherine and even you said the same thing when you saw Native Notes post. You did a very good job writing about this without losing your temper. This piece made me realize that I should not be supporting NYT anymore. I actually even feel guilty for having still read them after they posted that nasty piece.

    Thanks for tackling this. I’m going to link this piece from the one on my site.

    1. Thank you for commenting and joining the boycott, Lidia-Anain. I had a hard time not losing my temper, that’s why I focused on the concrete steps that I can take to remove rape apologists from my personal space. I find that the more passionate I am about something, the angrier it makes me, I take refuge in a more academic stance.

      I have to also thank you for posting the piece on your site from Native Notes. That was one of the things that kicked me in the butt to finally address this horrible event.

  4. Sezin, how terrible that some of the assaults were meant specifically to make sure the victim didn’t report any of them. I agree, the perpetrators must get the ultimate punishment. Wonder if rape is a capital offense in Texas?

    As for the NYT’s own staff not speaking up — I was surprised Nicholas Kristof did not comment and I did see him on Twitter being alerted to this abominable reportage and urged to comment by Shelby Knox, among others. She was the person who started the petition for a NYT apology. Kristof this week just did a blog post about a 14 year old Bangladeshi girl who was effectively executed for being raped. Guess he’s more comfortable talking about even more extreme cases, and those far far away from America? Or maybe he’s not allowed to comment on his own paper’s coverage?

    That’s the sole job of the NYT ombudsman. Unfortunately, his delayed reaction was too little, too late, and not at all meant to address the utter failure of the NYT on this story. By the way, I passed by his blog this week where he posted some letters to him and so many complain that the NYT has really slipped. (In which case, the Texas story is one among many egregious examples of the paper’s decline.) It’s no longer a paragon of journalistic excellence. It’s something else. And not that responsive to its critics.

    1. Anastasia, yes, just disgusting. I can’t even imagine, and you know how active my imagination is. My brain just shuts down at the thought of it.

      It seems many journalists are more comfortable talking about problems with “The Other” rather than people like themselves. I didn’t even bother to read what the NYT ombudsman said. From other analyses, he didn’t effect an apology in the least and I won’t return to that publication until I hear they have. If it’s not happened by now then I don’t expect it ever will.

      Agreed that the NYT is no longer an example of quality journalism. That’s okay, there are so many other publications that can fill that void and that’s where I’m heading for my news from now on.

  5. Good point about a defining aspect of PTSD being the fear of it happening again. And once it does happen again, the incident adds a new layer of trauma for the victim. Like an echo chamber. Breaking down any miraculously-still-existent ability to defend against it happening again. Thanks for the post, Sezin.

    1. @Catherine – Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I feel the same way as you and I might not have written anything at all except people keep sending me links to NYT articles and I got tired of explaining why I won’t open the links. This story overwhelmed and disgusted me so much, it was weeks after hearing about it that I was actually able to articulate anything at all. I really just don’t understand what would drive so many males to do something like this and I think there will be a future post here on that issue.

      @Anastasia – I absolutely agree with you. An echo chamber indeed. Today I watched a CNN update about the story that said there were actually SIX occasions they gang raped that little girl and as I had thought, it was to make sure she wouldn’t go to the police. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, they gave her and her family death threats in a number of different forms. Kudos to the teacher who finally brought things to light. Thank you as well for reading and commenting.

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