Monday, January 08, 2007

Example of The Danger of Shared Responsibility

This case described here shares some of the dynamics in Milgram's experiment even though on the surface the two scenarios have nothing in common.

He [14 year old] said he met some friends who told him a girl was "flipping," which he said meant "doing sexual favors" with multiple people. "To be honest, in the neighborhood that's not that uncommon," he said. [...] there were about 10 men or boys in the basement and the girl was performing oral sex on one of them. [...] "I was wrong, I understand that," the boy said. "She didn't seem that young. I never made her do anything. She was doing it willingly. I would never rape anyone, period."

The boy pleaded guilty to one count of party to the crime of first-degree sexual assault. [...] "When I hear him say that flipping is not uncommon in the community, it turns my stomach," [Milwaukee County Children's Court Judge Mary] Triggiano said. "I have to believe that there are kids that would say this is wrong and go for help. He didn't do it."

Because taking advantage of a girl who is "flipping" has been normalized in his sphere of friendship, the easiest choice for him to make is to join with those who have already exploited a younger child. He has an image of what real rape/sexual assault is and knows that's something he shouldn't do.

However, having an image of something and having a true understanding of it are two different things.
Earlier in the hearing, the boy's mother had quietly called the girl "a whore" within earshot of Seymour Gimbel, the attorney representing the 11-year-old, who was not present. Gimbel was seated near the boy's mother in the back of the courtroom. "The neighborhood itself is having a problem with this (case)," Gimbel said. "A few minutes ago she called the 11-year old girl 'a whore.' This is an 11-year-old child who has been raped . . . I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."
Who would be more of an expert to a child about how to treat girls than your own mother? If she puts all the responsibility on the victim, the path of least resistence is to do the same.

This attitude isn't limited to one family or one neighborhood or one city. Many people make the mistake of seeing a sexualized child as more "sexually mature" (and not hurt by the actions that would hurt other children that age) rather than seeing that child as someone who has been criminally sexualized by others and who is vulnerable to further sexual victimization.

A child who copes with great trauma by detaching emotionally is much less likely to appear like the stereotype many people have of a vulnerable child who has been repeatedly violated. Just because some victims and survivors don't wear their trauma on their sleeve doesn't mean there is no trauma. A hard shell can never be an excuse for illegal behavior.

It's much easier just to label an 11-year-old girl as a whore than it is to look at the actions of those who made this child be perceived this way. Those who do this labeling refuse to acknowledge the role of previous sexual crimes and let boys and men benefit from the actions of a girl's or woman's earlier rapist(s) while saying they are absolutely against rape.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:33 PM   0 comments links to this post


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