Brace yourself for the most stomach-turning story in a long time: on Friday, a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped after a homecoming dance in a suburb of San Francisco, while as many as 15 teenage boys stood around, doing nothing.
The victim was leaving the dance in Richmond, CA — a suburb of San Francisco, not too far from Antioch, where Phillip Garrido held Jaycee Dugard — when a classmate invited her to drink with him in a secluded area near the school. She agreed, becoming so inebriated that she fell over, at which point as many as seven young men raped her, beat her, took photographs, and stole her jewelry. They assaulted her for two-and-a-half hours, injuring her so badly that she had to be flown from the scene in critical condition.
A gang rape always has the added awfulness that the rapists are comfortable enough with their crime to commit it in front of others. This case is especially bad because the girl's attackers continued in front of multiple witnesses, assuming that they would do nothing. That assumption was correct. In fact, it was someone hearing about the assault at a local house party who called the cops. Richmond police lieutenant Mark Gagan said, "What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening, and failed to report it."
At first I thought this was a Kitty Genovese situation, in which indifferent bystanders failed to help a crime victim. In fact, it's worse. CNN's Nick Valencia writes that, "as many as 15 people, all males, stood around watching the assault, but did not call police or help the victim." Gagan adds, "As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated." This isn't a case of people turning their heads away and saying "none of my business." It's a situation in which 15 boys and men (one suspect in custody is 19, the other 15) treating public, brutal assault as a form of entertainment.
Anyone who went to a big, rough high school has seen this happen with a fight — everybody in the school rushes to the scene, cheering, booing, and even joining in as kids beat each other up. This practice is bad enough, exposing teen bloodlust and lack of compassion, but adding sexual assault to the mix makes the onlookers' situation all the more heinous. That all said onlookers were male seems important here — were they so afraid of having their masculinity questioned that they couldn't say anything? Or, more disturbingly, were they enthusiastic about the event, participating, however vicariously, in some kind of conquest? Whatever the case, not one, not two, but fifteen young men watched a gang-rape take place and essentially chose to side with the rapists — as Yes Means Yes would say, "that's rape culture."
Image via CNN.
Witnesses Did Not Report Gang Rape [UPI.com]
Police: Gang Rape Outside School Dance Lasted Over Two Hours [CNN]
Teens held over homecoming dance gang rape [AP, via MSNBC]
Police Arrest Second Teen In Connection With Vicious Assault On 15-Year-Old Girl [Contra Costa Times]