Prosecutor Says Gang Rape Of 10 Year-Old Girl Was "Childish Experimentation"

Illustration for article titled Prosecutor Says Gang Rape Of 10 Year-Old Girl Was Childish Experimentation

The story of the ten-year-old Aboriginal girl who was gang raped by nine assailants in the Australian province of Queensland becomes more and more appalling with each new fragment of information. As reported yesterday, Queensland judge Sarah Bradley (pictured), who said the ten-year old "probably agreed" to the rapes, did not hand out a single day of jail time to any of the nine perpetrators, all of whom pled guilty. (Some of the assailants, who were minors, came from some of Queensland's most prominent Aboriginal families, and even 26-year-old Raymond Woolla, who had a prior rap sheet of child-sex offenses, was given a six-month suspended sentence. Bradley told Woolla in her sentencing statement, "If you get into any more trouble in the next year, you could end up in jail.")



Prosecutor Steve Carter described the rape in court as "childish experimentation" and further claimed that "I can't say it was consensual in the legal sense, but in the other - in the general sense, the non-legal sense, yes, it was." Carter also said that the rape was "all by arrangement." What Carter failed to mention is the ten-year-old in question was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

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This girl's young life has already been so unbearably rife with abuse and tragedy. She was born in the Aurukun Aboriginal community in Northeastern Australia, a hotbed of child molestation where violence of all kinds is so prevalent, the government has placed major curbs on the sale of alcohol, because as one government official put it, "A river of grog is killing people and destroying our communities." (As an inquiry into Australia's Aboriginal communities found earlier this year, "child sex abuse [was present] in each of the 45 communities they visited...[and] Children as young as five were found to have contracted sexually-transmitted diseases," the BBC reported.)

In addition to her FAS, the girl had been shuffled between foster homes throughout her life, and, according to the New York Times, was raped at age seven, a crime from which she contracted syphilis. After placement in several foster families, the girl had finally found a home where she was thriving in the seaside city of Cairns, but was removed from the home by social workers because the family was non-indigenous. The social workers in question thought that Aboriginal children should only be in Aboriginal homes. She was then moved back to Aurukun, where the more recent assault took place.
(The nine man gang-bang was only discovered in the first place because the girl went to a nearby clinic, asking for condoms and a pregnancy test. The clinic found that she had gonorrhea.)

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Now that the case has been widely publicized, elected officials are coming out of the woodwork to decry the situation. Newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said: "I am horrified by cases like this, involving sexual violence against women and children. My attitude is one of zero tolerance." Prosecutor Steve Carter has been "stood aside" and several social workers have been suspended. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters, "The system clearly failed this little girl.'' As judge Sarah Bradley is the current president of Australian Association of Women Judges, the system is in clear need of an overhaul.

Australia Shocked by Case of Raped Indigenous Girl [NY Times]
'It was a childish experiment' [Daily Telegraph]
PM's fury at freeing of girl's gang rapists [Sydney Morning Herald]
Prosecutor to be stood aside [Courier Mail]
'We failed pack-rape girl' [Sydney Morning Herald]
Aborigine child sex abuse 'rife' [BBC]

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DISCUSSION

jennasauers
Jenna Sauers

@ellietown: Unfortunately, I too have to demur.

Maori are infinitely better off than Aboriginal people, due to historical factors. New Zealand just never had the level of institutionalised racism that Australia fostered until the 70s. But given how bad things can be for indigenous people in Australia, even being comparatively better off across the Tasman is far from perfect.

New Zealand's done a lot to improve things for Maori, including instituting a comprehensive Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. (The Treaty is the document that the Crown signed with Maori tribes in the 19th century to appropriate their lands, and then repeatedly broke the terms of.) But NZ is no utopia of perfect race relations.

Some tribes have done extremely well — the South Island's Ngai Tahu, for instance, runs all kinds of Maori language schools, owns profitable tourism-related businesses, offers small business grants and loans on excellent terms, and funds scholarships for higher education for its members — but others have floundered and been unable to use their Treaty settlements to improve their economic base or their people's participation in education.

Then there is the whole problem of Maori who've lost their tribal affiliations — leaving them ineligible for the Treaty claims process, since the Treaty was an agreement between the Crown and specific tribes, not Maori in general. Urban Maori who were pushed off their traditional land in generations past tend to have some of the worst outcomes for drug use, crime, joblessness, and education.

New Zealand never had a Stolen Generation, and nor was it illegal for Maori to vote until the 1960s. Nor do 3 out of 5 Maori children report sexual abuse, at least as far as I'm aware. But we still have plenty of serious problems.