Jennifer (noirem) wrote,

"Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town" - Rape case in Texas

Last Thanksgiving an 11-year-old girl was gang raped by at least 18 men, ages "middle schoolers" to 27-years-old. The case came to light when one of the girl's classmates showed a cellphone video of the attack to a teacher. On the 8th, the New York Times published a story by James C. McKinley, Jr which is, um, rather more concerned with the potentially ruined futures of the assailants than, well, anything about the child who was gang raped. Here is a slightly more balance article from AP reporter Juan A. Lozano via Houston Chronicle. There's also an editorial, "The Careless Language of Sexual Violence" prompted by the McKinley's story.

Mr McKinley,

I am deeply troubled by the tone of your article on the gang rape of the 11-year-old girl in Texas. You dance around the word "rape", avoiding it as if denying the crime would mean it didn't take place. I suppose that was requisite as your article largely ignores the child in question, the victim, to mourn the bright futures of these men who you carefully paint as coming from upstanding families ("son of a school board member") and otherwise engaging in wholesome activities ("two members of the [high school] basketball team"), part of the community ("their [this East Texas community residents'] young men"); bright futures which are now lost to them because of, you imply, one little mistake
A mistake, no less, that they were "drawn into" as if by forces beyond their control. You describe one of her 19-year-old attackers as a "boy", implying youth and impressionability, when our society says he was a man at 18 and then turn around and say the victim dressed like "a woman in her 20s". This, you imply, wasn't the rape of a pre-pubescent child by men but rather the inevitable result of a worldly temptress pushing "boys" past the limits of their self control.

You are, indeed, careful to hit all of the victim-blaming buttons: she dressed in an immodest manner, she hung out not just with boys but boys who were older than her! Because in victim-blaming you get to have it both ways. Further, this all could have been prevented if only the victim's _mother_ had behaved properly instead of letting her daughter go "missing" and thus bringing this all down on her. You mention that this otherwise working-class town of implied quality people has "pockets of poverty", implying that not having money is a blight on moral fortitude, that "deteriorating façades" somehow brought about this crime.

Further care is taken to avoid ownership of your victim-blaming. You make only three quotes - two from the same woman, worrying about the attackers futures, and blaming the victim's mother, and a third from the police spokeswoman, worrying about the town. The rest of your victim bashing hides behind vague attributions: "they say", "some said", "according to", and "many [are] wondering". You're free to claim that these comments don't reflect your personal opinions, but rather the opinions of the townspeople, conveniently overlooking the fact that you chose your quotes to fit the story you wanted to write.

You end on a melancholy note - a towns person wishing that this didn't reflect so badly on the town. After all this article isn't about a little girl who was brutalized, who was raped by at least 18 men, it's about a "picturesque" town devastated to think that their sons "will have to live with this for the rest of their lives."

I think your story - I will not grant it the dignity of article - is deplorable. I think that you and your editor have done this little girl an injustice. I think you are directly contributing to a culture that says woman should expect to be attacked by men as a matter of course, as the natural order of things, and that having been so attacked it is our own fault either through provocative actions or mere failure to adequately protect ourselves; that tells men it's natural to want to hurt and objectify woman and that following through on those urges is a dismissible offence.

Further I think you owe your readers an apology, though I don't expect you shall do so. If, the next time you sit down to write an article, you take half of a second to consider how and whether it will contribute to rape culture and victim blaming, I will consider this letter a success.
Tags: my fault i'm female, rape, rape culture
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