Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Contrasting Response To Richmond CA Beating And Gang Rape And Other Reported Gang Rapes

From the LA Times:

Outrage grew in a Bay Area town over the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl as police made more arrests overnight.

National attention has been focused in Richmond over what police described as a gang rape of a 15-year-old student who struggled with attackers -- some of whom took photos and laughed -- as more than a dozen witnesses passed by and did nothing. Police said last night that as many as 20 people saw the attack, and some might have shot video on their cellphones.[...]

Police were alerted after a female student overheard people talking about a rape. She called 911 and told dispatchers what she had heard, Gagan said.
I wish this level and duration of violence shocked me, but it is supported by so many attitudes from people who view themselves as against rape and by so many sex crimes which get dismissed by so many people as consensual or the victim's fault because she allegedly overlooked boys and men's animal nature.

There is a solid foundation in our society for this type of crime but there is also a strong movement to try to dismantle this foundation so even far less brutal acts of sexual violence would spark national outrage and a national determination to let go of the myth that there is nothing we can do to stop the endemic level of sexual violence except wait until crimes like this happen and then lock up as many of those involved as we can.

When I first heard about this crime I wondered why it instantly was viewed as a real crime in comments of sites which usually teem with rape denial and baseless speculation about the victim's honesty. Then I read that in addition to gang raping her, they beat her severely enough that she had to be rushed to the hospital where she was initially in critical condition.

Those who regularly respond to rape allegations with the statement that girls and women lie and that about half of all reported rapes are false couldn't get away with those flip responses in this case and for many of those people this severity of violence in sexually motivated crimes is what is needed before they will acknowledge a rape, even a gang rape, as a real crime.

This is the type of rape which is allegedly minimized when people such as myself focus on and oppose all non-stranger individual or gang rapes where the rapists didn't leave their victims maimed or dead or where the victim is described as failing to clearly communicate lack of consent.

The problem with the minimization theory is that once what an individual doesn't want and doesn't actively and freely consent to stops being relevant to the moral and legal judgment of actions taken against that individual then the door has been opened to the sexually violent for any nonconsensual behavior including beating.

The rapist or rapists are having a great time and under many people's model of consent it is not their legal responsibility to ensure that their actions don't cross the line into criminal actions. Yet those who put forth this model are shocked when it is used in cases which they themselves acknowledge as real crimes.

To deny this connection many of those who dismiss many sex crimes need to view those who raped or beat this girl or who watched it like the finest form of entertainment as born monsters whose thinking is in no way similar to the rapists who are defended as decent men who made a mistake by misreading the situation. One way this separation between excusable and inexcusable rapists happens is through racism.

The gang rape which had a very different response which comes to mind also happened in California. That is the De Anza gang rape case where 3 women athletes rescued an unconscious girl from an in-progress gang rape yet the prosecutor refused to file charges because there was insufficient evidence that a crime occurred.

That a girl was unconscious when discovered wasn't enough for many people to accept that what those men did to her was wrong let alone a crime. As one of the men in the room said, "she did this to herself." One of the men implicated later complained that he was a victim and the unconscious girl was not.

These attitudes need to change. As long as the outrage is limited to the most horrific rapes then we've failed to do anything to prevent the next bunch of guys from committing gang rape. The only lesson they might learn from the conflicting responses to reported gang rapes is to be careful during their gang rapes to not leave their victims with undeniable non-sexual injuries.

Our tolerance level for sexual violence needs to be at zero and no accusation should be made against an alleged victim unless there is specific credible evidence and the person making the accusation is willing to be legally accountable for his or her allegation.

In both the De Anza and Richmond gang rapes no boy or man who knew or heard about what was being done to a girl took any actions to stop the violence. This must change. Silence is tolerance and tolerance enables sexual violence and that is an important part of the foundation for violence such as this latest gang rape case.

Correction: According the Mercury News a boy or man named Raul Rubio heard rumor about the assault and he verified the rumor and then went to his girlfriend's home where she called 911. So thank you, Mr. Rubio for intervening. If other boys and men assumed that the only way they could intervene would be to physically challenge rapists then we need to do a better job of educating boys and men about what they can do as bystanders.

Update: I just learned that those who watch someone being raped and who do nothing or who even enable the rape to continue have not committed any crime under California criminal statutes.

What makes this crime so shocking is that police say at least 20 people were involved in the rape or stood and watched the crime without going for help. "These are witnesses that are encouraging and allowing behavior to continue," Gagan said.

For those who watched and did nothing, it may be morally reprehensible, but it's not illegal. "Although this is a very difficult crime to hear about, the fact is California law does not impose an affirmative obligation on anyone to do anything when you are watching a crime," said Trent Copeland, a legal analyst.
This must change.

It's one thing when those who witness a crime might not realize what they are seeing in the distance. But when people become an active audience for rape or other crimes that needs to be criminal because they have made decisions which make them active participants even if they never touched the victim. Not being sure whether the victim had at some point consented should also not be a valid defense. True consent must exist in each moment.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:32 PM   5 comments links to this post


At October 28, 2009 4:34 PM, Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Excellent points made here, Marcella, and it infuriates me to read them because its hard to fathom how some people think. I wrote about the gang rape on my blog and one of my commenters said "would they have wanted this to happen to their sister, daughter or mother?" If the answer is no - then WHY is it okay for them to do it to ANYONE?

At October 28, 2009 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cried when I was told the ordeal the poor child went through! Society has lost its moral compass, to not be SHOCKED is outrageous, to blame a child of 15 for the violent actions against her being is shameful. Yes, rape is an act of violence and should not be excused away.
I wish I knew how to contact the parents to express my heartfelt agony for their daughter. My prayers are with her and her family. May the Lord, our savior, walk with this girl through her life, heal her physical and emotional wounds... Why are there those who don't understand the violence in this act will take a lifetime to heal, and this girl has been stripped of a normal future. God bless you child. Remember you are a child of God and he will walk with you.

Prayers from Texas are with you.

At October 28, 2009 9:31 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I'm not sure I understand the first part of your comment. Are you assuming that I blame this girl?

At October 29, 2009 2:46 PM, Blogger Julian Real said...

Hi Marcella,

I linked to this post of yours over at my blog. I have to note that once the news was out about it possibly having been caught on video or in images, by the on-lookers, it also becomes pornography for too many of those who view it, including law enforcement, which makes it more difficult for her to be seen as human.

At October 29, 2009 3:11 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Good point about the filming of this rape being turned into pornography.


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