In a somewhat unclear update to the horrific story of the 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped by almost 20 men in East Texas, the New York Times reports that this may not have been an isolated incident, and that the girl in question might have been assaulted repeatedly over the course of three months. According to the police, the girl may have been gang-raped six times between September 15 and December 3 of last fall. Her parents did not become aware that the abuse was happening until her parents found sexually explicit photos on her father’s cell phone, which she had been borrowing.
After coming under significant fire for their problematic initial coverage of the case, the NYT is clearly trying to rectify some of their mistakes. They report that the girl was an “outgoing honor roll student” before withdrawing from some of her extracurricular activities last October. What seems to be even more clear, though, from this article, is that no one is really sure what’s happening, either in the town, with the girl, or with the case.
The article’s authors ask, logically, how a girl could have been repeatedly abused by such a large number of men in a tightly knit community without anyone noticing or intervening. Eighteen of the men charged have pleaded not guilty; the nineteenth has yet to be arraigned.
This update includes new, disturbing details from the November 28 rape, which was originally thought to be the only assault. The girl said that she was ordered to strip, and “engaged in sexual and oral intercourse” with several of the men present. During the assault, she overheard one of the men calling a friend and inviting him to have sex with her. Four men she didn’t know subsequently arrived. They took her to an abandoned trailer a block away when a family member arrived at the house, and continued to assault her.
The girl’s parents, who are Mexican immigrants, figure prominently in the article, and their role seems ambiguous — although, again, this could simply be the NYT dropping the ball in their coverage. According to family members, her parents were in “dire economic straits,” and that both parents are plagued with health problems. Why this is relevant to the girl’s sexual assault is unclear — all it does is suggest, once again, that this may not have been a brutal crime against a child, but rather an event that was in some way produced by parental negligence. The girl, for reasons that the reporters do not explore, is now in foster care, and the parents must attend family therapy sessions before they can regain custody.
The article is confusing, and reveals a horrifying and still-unfolding case. But it also continues to demonstrate the media biases in reporting rape cases. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
Photo from the U.S. Military.
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