Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beyond Inhuman: The Gang Rape Phenomenon

By Robin Sax

How could such a horrific gang rape go on for two hours,  in front of a small crowd, without anyone calling for help? The Oct. 24 rape, beating and robbery of a 15-year-old Richmond High School girl left her in critical condition after dozens stood by and did nothing. Police suspect as many as 18 people participated in the attack while the girl's classmates enjoyed themselves at a school dance just yards away. 

Richmond, California, Police Lt. Mark Gagan said the kids “were obviously okay enough with it to behave that way in each other's presence." Even more disturbing -- if that’s possible -- is the presence of dozens of bystanders. “People came by, saw what was happening and failed to report it,” Gagan said.

The Richmond gang rape is among the worst of recent attacks. Of the large group watching the brutality, not one among them had enough conscience or character to so much as report the crime.

Dara Cashman, head of the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office sex crimes unit, said that those who witnessed the attack but didn't report it could face aiding-and-abetting charges -- “if it can be proven that their actions facilitated or goaded the perpetrators." Lt. Gagan speculated that a “mob mentality” took over that night and  became uglier and more hostile as word spread, drawing more witnesses. 

“More and more people came to see what was happening” according to one teen. “The original spectators drew more spectators, and not one bothered to call the police for two hours.”

On Nov. 22, passengers in an NYC subway car were frozen with fear while they watched a fatal stabbing. Not one picked up a cell phone to call, or even quietly text, for help. The stabbed passenger was pronounced dead on the scene when the train came into the station.

On Sept. 29, a Chicago honors student was beaten to death of a gang of other teens. He didn't belong to any gang, but his attackers mistook him for a member of a rival street gang. The boy was beaten to death in front of dozens of teenage witnesses. 
As in the Richmond gang rape and the NYC train stabbing, no one called for help. There was at least one student taping the beating, but only after it was over did he try to help the victim.  

The examples of teen violence go on and on. On Nov. 24, a 14-year-old Alabama girl helped arrange the gang rape of her fellow ninth-grade classmate and faces charges as an accomplice. Witnesses did nothing to help the victim.

This insensitivity begs the questions: How can these young kids be so brutally violent? Where are they learning such behavior? Why don't witnesses feel a duty to report violence occurring right in front of them? What is happening psychologically to teenagers, witnesses as well as perpetrators?

Regardless, it is our job as a society to put an end to it. How do we do that? What are we doing as a society to encourage violent behavior? We're ambivalent, negative, and accustomed to blaming the victim.

Many people automatically avoid getting involved, mind their own business, look the other way. We try to avoid jury duty, don’t want to pull over when we witness a car accident, and pretend not to hear when our kids badmouth other kids. 

We know, but prefer to forget, that kids model the behavior of the adults around them. If we want them to develop compassion, character, and responsibility, we must let let them see those qualities in us. We must show them that along with our rights as citizens come responsibilities to the other people in our community. And we must nurture their consciences by using ours, remembering that a healthy conscience is one of the features that distinguish humans from every other kind of animal.


FleaStiff said...

Wikipedia: 36.06% black, 21.36% white, 0.64% Native American, 12.29% Asian, 0.50% Pacific Islander, 13.86% from other races, and 5.27% from two or more races. 26.53% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, of any race."
This is the usual explanation for such things. I suspect the percentages are even worse in the school system.

Anonymous said...

What does your reply have to do with this post FleaStiff?

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Maryann Miller said...

You raise questions I ask myself every time news of one of these gang rapes or other assaults breaks. The mob mentality is really hard to understand when we step back and look at it intellectually. They are driven by an emotion that just seems to take over and quell any rational thought.

As to why people don't step up to stop them, I think most people are afraid to. I remember watching a group of drunken men beating a horse and I wanted to rush out to stop them. The women I was with held me back for fear that I would get attacked.

I was very young then and allowed them to hold me back, but always regretted it. Now, I would ask them to step forward with me. If enough people step forward it could make a difference.

Vickie Pynchon said...

Here's a thorough discussion of the issue from the point of view of a criminal defense lawyer whose blog is one of the top ABA Legal Blogs every year: Simple Justice.