(Warning, hippy, liberal, touchy feely things discussed below. Enter at your own risk.)
Oh, you guys.
I had a rough weekend.
And not because of anything like a fussy baby or being too tired or the dog puked or whatever (all of which occurred at SOME point).
It started Thursday night, when I read this article on Huffington Post. I then read the original NY Times piece that they referenced, and then I read the comments on both. And then there was this column, too – related, but more focused on a broader sense of society. Let me summarize: an eleven year old girl in Texas was gang raped by eighteen men, aged 14 to 27. The NY Times ran a story on it. The journalist focused on such things as “how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?” and used a quote from a towns person stating: “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives” or asking where the girl’s mother was. Details included how the girl dressed (too old) and the company she kept (older boys).
(I’m trying to keep my thoughts focused and organized, but it’s hard. I go all over the place in my mind, so please pardon me if my writing does the same.)
Now, no, it’s not the journalist who asked where the mother was, it’s not the journalist who expressed sadness over the “boys'” futures. But the journalist DID choose to include those quotes. He did choose NOT to research why this child went missing for hours without notice (one commenter says the girl’s mother was in the hospital at the time). He did chose to include the details of what an eleven year old girl wore, as if it’s relevant to being assaulted by EIGHTEEN MEN. He did not ask where the mothers of these “young men” were. He did not ask where the girl’s father was. He did not mention what this girl must live with for the rest of HER life.
I don’t even know where to start, you know? Well, how about here: if an eleven year old girl prances up to a 20+ year old man and says “let’s have sex,” the answer is no. And it is no without asking what she is wearing. It is no without people watching. It is just no because it is no. Nothing else matters, other than the fact that she is a child.
Or how about: what parent knows exactly where their eleven year old child is at all hours of every day? I know that, at 11, I was allowed to walk to friends’ houses. I was allowed to ride my bike to the mall. I was allowed to roller-skate in the park. Children grow up and gain independence. But even still, the point is irrelevant. The question implies that the mother is to blame, for not being physically present. This is not true. The terrible men who committed this crime are to blame. That’s it.
As far as even mentioning how the girl dressed? There’s no excuse. The NYT should be ashamed. She could have been naked, and it STILL wouldn’t matter. And this, this is the part that really kills me. This little detail. This and the aside of hanging out with older boys. It’s the worst part of the entire article. It’s sneaky, it’s subtle, but it’s blame. It’s blame for the child. For the girl. It’s putting guilt on the victim, it’s implying she asked for it. She wanted it. She should have known better.
And that’s what sexual assault/abuse does, too. Aside from the physical trauma, sexual violence makes you feel ashamed. Guilty. Bad. It makes you feel that way as an adult. Even more so as a child, because you don’t have a firm grasp on the fact that what just happened was wrong. I speak from experience, in both cases. And the guilt and the self blame and the feeling that “if only I’d….” That’s the hardest part to beat. (Well, one of the hardest parts). To have a well reputed, well established, national publication confirm your worst fears….well, I *don’t* have experience with that. I can imagine that it doesn’t make the road to recovery any easier.
And then today there were two stories. The Iowa woman arrested on suspicion of considering an abortion, and the FL bill that would require a woman to get a vaginal ultrasound before considering a termination…well. Politics and feelings on abortion/choice aside, I have to ask: Why? Why are women so hated right now? What is going on? These things, these stories, they are popping up everywhere, everyday. And it isn’t about prolife/prochoice. It’s about controlling women, telling them what to do.
And it’s absolutely terrifying me.