When I heard about the story I’m about to share with you I was sick to my stomach and my eyes filled with tears. I literally couldn’t believe the words as I read them across my computer screen. As my brain registered the reality I found it harder and harder to assuage my rage.
Last Saturday night after a high school homecoming dance in Richmond, California a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang raped by at least four assailants. As many as 20 people watched or became involved in the attack and not one person did anything to help the young girl or call the police. For two-and-a-half hours she was raped and beaten while onlookers laughed and took photos – some even joining in.
It wasn’t until a female student at a local house party overheard people “reminiscing about the incident” that someone finally called the police to report the crime.
The victim was found unconscious under a bench in a secluded area near the school in such critical condition that she needed to be helicoptered to a nearby hospital.
Two teenage suspects have been jailed, but police expect as many as 20 additional arrests.
“She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other’s presence,” said Lt. Mark Gagan, a patrol supervisor in the city’s Northern Policing District. “What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening, and failed to report it.”
The fact that a group of men watched and were entertained – laughing and taking pictures – by a woman being repeatedly raped and beaten at their feet is outrageous. This wasn’t a television set or movie screen they were watching (not that that would make it OK either), but a real live human being within their reach who was being brutally attacked.
Why was their instinct to watch and enjoy and not call the police or intervene? Were they afraid their masculinity would be in question if they did? Did they not view the attack as a crime?
Anna North at Jezebel said it best:
“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.”
And what about the rapists who were so unashamed by their attack that they proceeded even after a crowd formed? Did they assume that no-one would call the police? Did they enjoy having an audience?
These are questions to think about as we dissect this inhumane and disturbing crime.
Luckily, police have reported that the victim is in stable condition – physically at least – but I can’t image the road to recovery she will soon embark on. For this survivor – and all women who have survived rape – I wish you justice.
Watch a video of Lt. Johan Simon, Richmond, CA, Police Department describe what happened the night of homecoming.