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Updates in Case of 11-Year-Old Sexual Assault: 19 Men Charged, Parents Informed Police Before School Did

11-year-old sexual assault

The story of the 11-year-old sexually assaulted in tiny Cleveland, TX continues to unfold.

The New York Times has published the follow-up article they promised after their coverage of the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, TX was widely panned.  Their recent piece is the first that I’ve read to go out of its way to describe the victim favorably, saying she “was an outgoing honor roll student, brimming with enthusiasm, who went on hikes and planted trees with a youth group.”

The Times article notes that “police say the girl was raped on at least six occasions, from Sept. 15 to Dec. 3″ and that 19 boys and men have now been charged in the case.  The reporters’ portrayal of the perpetrators of this heinous crime – even in this “response” piece – belies a level of sympathy for the assailants.  They are described as “an eclectic group of young men, some with criminal records, who shared a powerful neighborhood bond.”  Ah, yes.  Gang rape is just male bonding at its finest.

New information about how the girl’s parents discovered that she had been raped was revealed, and the Times scored an interview with the victim’s father, despite the gag order that was issued for everyone remotely involved with the case.  Juan, a 57-year-old carpenter, said “he became aware of his daughter’s abuse in late November, when she arrived home at 3 or 4 a.m. after having slipped out without permission.  She was shaking and weeping when her mother opened the door to their small white frame house… and she immediately closed herself in her room.”

The victim’s parents “found sexually explicit photos that had been sent to her father’s cellphone, which she had been using.”  Those images led the victim to confess that she had been raped.  The Cleveland, TX police department says it was first alerted to the crime on December 3 by school authorities, but the victim’s father suggests his wife told police two days earlier on December 1.

Unfortunately, the reporters manage to bring the victim’s physicality into their piece and subtly continue to blame her good looks for her rape.  They write, “As she reached puberty… she had grown tall for her age and had begun to talk about wanting to be a fashion model,” countering that immediately with the idea that “she was still a child; her bed was piled high with stuffed animals.”  The takeaway: How could anyone expect a virile male to resist such a perfect virgin-whore?  It’s like she was 11, but she didn’t act 11, so, you know, she wasn’t really 11.  She wanted it – and her Mickey Mouse plush doll.

I can’t help but resent any and all reference to the “tight knit” community of Cleveland, TX and their take on this child’s gross misfortune, because all those references say to me is that this girl was an outsider.  She was alone, literally and metaphorically.  She was singled out and gang raped and everyone in the “tight knit” community has no idea how it is that their children could have done such a thing!  At one point in the piece, the reporters write in their description of the town, “Everyone is related by blood or friendship.”  Not everyone.  The people of Cleveland, TX have proven that not one of them is or was a friend to this abused 11-year-old girl.

The pastor of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church calls the townspeople out by saying, “It wasn’t that anyone was asleep.  You can be awake and see things and still not do anything.”  Indeed.  Some much needed honesty, finally.

Despite video evidence of the rapes, “eighteen defendants have pleaded not guilty; the 19th has yet to be arraigned.”  The Times piece offers more insight into the criminal lives of the attackers and has some grisly details of the rape itself, including the fact that “During the sexual assault, the girl said, she heard Mr. McGowen call someone on the phone and invite him to the house to have sex with her, the affidavits said.  Four more men whom she did not know arrived.”  Eric B. McGowen, 19, picked the victim up on November 28th to go “riding around.”

Source: New York Times

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