My shock at the alleged gang rape of an 11-year-old girl by 18 young men and boys was closely matched by my shock at The New York Times’ coverage of this horrible crime. One of the “unanswered questions” faced by the community of Cleveland, Texas, according to reporter James McKinley, was “if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?”
I’ve been a victim advocate for nearly 30 years, and know for an absolute fact that rape is not something assailants are “drawn into.”
It is a heinous, violent crime that a rapist chooses to inflict upon another person, whether the survivor is known to the sex offender(s) or not. It is a crime of power and control that has a devastating and ongoing impact on its victims? physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and financially.
When reporters like Mr. McKinley make a conscious decision to interview subjects whose opinions – not facts – cast dispersions on a victim and actually report such unfounded observations, it brings victim-blaming to new, sorrowful heights. Such “hearsay” would not be allowed in a court of law, which makes it difficult to understand why these comments from unidentified persons were allowed in an article published by The Times.
Whether or not Mr. McKinley intended to evoke sympathy and support for the alleged rapists is beside the point. Strong evidence in this case points to the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl, and this child is the one who is deserving of?and who is going to need? empathy and support to help her cope with the tragic consequences of the conscious, collective decisions of 18 young men to harm her beyond the comprehension of a civilized society.
Anne Seymour is a national victim advocate affiliated with Justice Solutions, a nonprofit in Washington DC. She is former public affairs director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and co-founder and communications director of the National Victim Center, now National Center for Victims of Crime.