Blaming the victim

An 11-year-old girl deserves an apology from the Times

SAXTONS RIVER — Recently in Texas, an 11-year-old girl was gang raped by 18 to 20 boys and men. Imagining the horror this child experienced is, in itself, just sickening. Any compassionate being would feel nauseous with the images it brings up.

As abhorrent as this act is, the response of members of her community, as reported by The New York Times, was shocking.

According to the March 8 account in the newspaper, “They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”

The newspaper quoted one neighbor: “Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?”

I am shocked to the core to hear these statements, which, basically, blame the victim: an 11-year-old child.

This girl and all others youngsters have been encouraged, even brainwashed, by American culture to brand themselves as “sexy.” Magazines, TV, music, and other aspects of our culture encourage young girls to be sexual in appearance. We sell padded bras to little girls and high heels to toddlers.

Makeup and makeovers are marketed for children. Many little girls see their worth in a strapless gown or a miniskirt. Big corporations target our children, our girls, to see themselves as sexy. It is stamped on their T-shirts, backpacks, cell phones, and the seats of their sweatpants.

How can society criticize any child for following a norm that has been designed and marketed for her?

Who should be held responsible for the rape of this child?

Certainly, first of all, the 18 to 20 boys and men, from their mid-teens to their late twenties, who held her captive in an abandoned trailer.

But who has modeled for them that rape is acceptable? That it is a game, a fun time, something to be recorded on your video cellphone and shared with your friends?

Pornography and the trivialization of women have become easily accessible to all, and are available to boys and men on Internet and film.

It is a very sad and tragic situation for all involved. I feel very sad for the boys and men who believe this is a way to live their lives. I feel more deeply for the child whose life has been mauled and destroyed.

Thirty thousand people signed a petition asking The New York Times, to apologize to this child victim, and to decry the sentiments they so freely shared with their readers.

It is up to the discretion of a journalist and an editor what to print. A newspaper apparently endorses what it prints, thus “educating” its readers. The Times is responsible for its appalling choice to condone the sick perspectives in this case. The report needs to be discredited.

Sadder, still, is the attitude of the community. The child and all victims of rape need the compassion and concern of everyone in this country.

Sexualization of our children is a crime that must be stopped. Marketers will sell anything to make money. The web is complex, but the blame lies on the perpetrators of this horrendous act, the rapists.

The rest of us are also responsible for boycotting the values inherent in sexualizing youth and for accepting violence against women in any way.

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