NY Times example of rape culture

An appalling crime, appallingly reported by the NY Times. From Alternet’s discussion of the story:

There is an awful story in the New York Times today: Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town. It’s about the arrest of 18 boys and men, ranging in age “from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old,” for the gang-rape of an 11-year-old girl.

As horrible as this story is, the article serves as a great example of exactly what we mean by “rape culture.” 1) By paragraph #4, we have been told the ages of the men and several have been personalized: “Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member.” Etc. All we know about the 11-year-old is her age and gender.

2) In paragraph #4, we read the following question: “[I]f the allegations are proved, how could [the community’s] young men have been drawn into such an act?”. Which suggests, of course, that it really isn’t their fault they raped a child; they were just “drawn into it.” Indeed, according to one of the people quoted, “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

3) The actual word “rape” is avoided whenever possible. The reader is told that the girl had been forced to have sex, she was “sexually assaulted,” and she was threatened with violence if she “did not comply.”

4) Now ask yourself the reason for the following paragraph to have been included:

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.”

Nowhere in this story is the following made clear:

— That an 11-year-old child cannot consent to sex. Even if she had not been “told she would be beaten if she did not comply,” this would have been rape.

— That the victim also has to “live with this for the rest of her life.” The boys chose to do the things they will have to live with. She did not.

— That the men involved were not “drawn into this,” but made the conscious choice to rape a child.

— That our compassion and care should be directed first and foremost toward the victim rather than the boys, the school, the community, or anyone else.

— That just as we should not stand in judgment of the victim we should not venture to judge her mother. (“‘Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?’ said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record.”) For all we know, the woman had been frantically trying to get someone, anyone, to listen to her concerns about her daughter. Even if she hadn’t been, parental neglect does not give other people a license to rape unsupervised children.

My impression when I finished reading the article was that the reader was being admonished to feel compassion and pain for the town and the boys. The victim had disappeared from article just as she had fled the town.

As so it goes—today in rape culture.

There’s a petition you can sign here, asking for the NY Times to apologise.

15 thoughts on “NY Times example of rape culture

  1. I noticed that a German story about the father who had been forcing sex on his choldrenand step children used the word rape over and over. It seemed harsh ti me at first and then I thought… Oh my god, I have been socialized to see this as something softer, lesser than rape. I then started questioning why we are so skittish about using that word. Also… Is their a racial differential? I think in some senses it I’d ok for them to not publish details about her– he’d anonymity should be protected but the journalist should question why the need to include details about the rapists… Is it to build reader empathy?

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  3. Not defending the article generally, but want to make a point on this specfic quote from the commentary:

    “All we know about the 11-year-old is her age and gender.”

    Given the rape shield laws, it’s likely that’s all they feel they can publish without risk of identifying her, and they probably didn’t have access to interview her friends and family either.

  4. Thanks so much for this analysis. It really illuminates the concept andthebehavior that goes with it.

  5. This is just a shot in the dark (the child protection laws are different where I am), but they may be trying to prevent lawsuits with all this victim blaming. If they paint the child’s mother to be ‘poor and unfit’, and the rapists to be ‘pillars of the community’, she’d have a harder time winning a lawsuit against the schoolboard, right?

    I looked up the original article. In addition to all of the above, they made a big to-do about pointing out that the rape happened off school property. I’m guessing that this was the schoolboard’s way of saying “Sue the individuals if you must, but we’re not responsible for their behaviour.”

    Also, 2 of the boys were basketball players. If they were any good, that may be something of an issue for the school. Hence the statement: “they’ll have to live with this…” I say good. Let them live with it. Serves them right for thinking their jock status makes them untouchable.

    Anyway, I’m off to sign the petition before my comments take on that ball-bashing tone your moderators are so fond of. ttfn.

  6. First, this is very horrifying and saddening that a group of men/boys would conspire to rape an 11-year old girl. Considering this is a relatively small town, (Pop. around 9,000 according to NyTimes, 7,600 as of 2000 Census) this is probably why there are comments shifting blame to the mother and trying to protect the community (this is merely explanatory not justificatory). I, and I would venture others, can not even imagine what it is like for the 11-year old girl and what it will be like for her in the future. Surely, she deserves and quite possibly demands our compassion.
    As to the critiques of the NYTimes article, though I agree with most critiques and responses, I find myself questioning certain responses. Perhaps we should recognize that we should neither trivialize nor marginalize the victim but we should not so quickly call for a pound of flesh. Obviously, all the men and boys involved are rapists– that is undeniable.
    To the 1st observation about personalization: We should not be giving details about anyone except those who are legal adults. The girl’s identity should be kept a secret as should the younger men perhaps even the 19-year olds that were involved. I would go so far as to suggest that the girls age should be given in a range e.g. ” a girl age 10-13 was raped.” She already has to live with this event in her own mind why should it extend it to where the public can identify her easily. Secondly, we should question any curiosity into such events, this seems almost morbid to want to know details of such an event.
    To the 2nd observation the boys did choose but to what extent? Obviously there was a 27-year old there with age ranges down to middle school, so to what extent was there pressure to commit such an act to what extent are the Milgram experiments relevent here? Yes, this is a serious crime yet what if the boys and even the 19 year olds who (assuming they grow up to be better adults) eventually have a family and become better people who seriously regret there mistakes in youth yet still have to suffer for this. If they are convicted then they could go on the sex offender registry for life and this will severely hamper their lives. Am I saying they should not be convicted of this crime? No, they should. Am I saying there are problems with the effects of being a juvenile convicted of such a crime? Yes. If they are on this registry making it harder for them to get jobs, find places to live, make friends and so on, then this obviously doesn’t help reform. Everyone has made mistakes as a teenager; we should not be so quick here to call for blood.
    I am not saying that we should turn our attention toward the town and the perpetrators but we should think before acting from outrage and anger. This was, is and will be tragic for all parties involved but especially the girl. Please do not mistake my critique for mitigation.
    *These comments are mainly addressing the boys under the age of 20*

  7. Right, MAM. I forgot about the sex offender registry. I agree that they’re too heavy handed with that thing. I’m not a radfem, I believe in discipline for the sake of teaching, not punishment for the sake of revenge or scapegoating. I agree that nobody under the age of 18 should be on that thing, or have their names released in any other publication.

    The 12-18 year olds should serve some time, tho, with a heavy emphasis on teaching them not to attack other people, sexually or otherwise. I’m also not opposed to seeing a sports career or 2 go down in shame. There’s no ‘dick’ in “team” is the message I like to give young boys about excessive competition, especially when bullying attitudes lead to crimes like this.

    Do any of you have any stats on recidivism rates among young offenders (? or whatever the state of Texas calls them) before and after the sex offender registry? I’m hypothesizing that the SOR does more harm than good. Can anybody back me up or refute me?

  8. Seemingly, this story is becoming less and less rational. I few fine lines I have come across are:
    “The video shows the girl engaged in sexual acts with several men” -ABC news

    “James D. Evans III, an attorney who represents three of the defendants, insists: “This is not a case of a child who was enslaved or taken advantage of”-http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7459716.html

    “Attorney James D. Evans III, who has represented several of the young men, further inflamed the debate by claiming the victim was “seeking attention” and “wanted to be a porn star.”

    To the first quote I am particularly fond of the wording “she is engaged in sexual acts.” Oh? You mean she was brutally gang raped by up to 20 different men? What a nice euphemism that is–“engaged in sexual acts”. Further down the same article she is a “Minor and alleged victim of a sex crime,” she isn’t an “alleged victim of a sex crime” she is a victim of a sex crime because she is a minor of which there are videos of her having sex with men older than her. “Alleged” is a qualifier used for claims of illegal activity esp. without proof, sadly their are videos of her “engaging in sexual acts” (Read: being raped).

    As to the second quote–she is 11 years old, you can’t give consent until you are 17. If you cannot give consent then it seems that if an act is committed against you to which you are unable to consent and/or did not consent to then you are being taken advantage of. Surely, basic logic doesn’t elude someone who has a law degree.

    To the 3rd–because wanting to be a porn star means that it is ok to rape the aspiring porn star? Nevermind that she is still 11 or that it doesn’t matter what she aspired to be. Then again by that logic every kid who aspired to be a professional boxer can be beaten by a gang of older kids right?

  9. So much for the scientific method. Gods, what a sensationalist load of BS. The poor little girl.

  10. i was raped by 10 year oid and 8 year old when i was 5 doesn;t matter how young boys are when they rape they know it’s wrong and i still suffer from the rapes that happen to me and i am almost 60 while these boys now men have had a life i have not in many ways ….

  11. […] Rape culture is not something anyone should laugh about. The fact that some people choose to make rape seem like not a big deal is not okay. Sometimes news sources even say that it is the victims fault and that she was ‘asking for it’ based on what she chose to wear. An example of this happened in 2011 when a 11 year old girl was raped by a group of 18 men. A New York Times article then went on to say that she was asking for it because she dressed and acted older than she was. It is atrocious that someone would even think to write an article blaming a poor little girl who will probably be struggling emotionally for a long time. The victim is not able to control being raped. Rape happens all the time and it should be taken seriously all the time no matter what the other factors. No one asks to get raped. You can find more information on this story in the article on this website: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/ny-times-example-of-rape-culture/ […]

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