Two days ago came word of another disturbing crime in which an 11-year-old girl was the victim of a sexual assault allegedly carried out by multiple people — this time seven teens who are believed to be part of a Southern California gang. The attack took place on March 10 in Moreno Valley, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles.
Michael Sykes, 19, was arrested on Monday for his suspected involvement in the gang rape. The other six suspects, all of whom are juveniles, were taking into custody shortly after the March 10 attack. An older girl approached the victim at a shopping center and convinced her to enter a public bathroom at the Victoriano Park bathroom in Moreno Valley where Sykes and the other boys lay in wait. The older girl has since been arrested.
This crime happened shortly after another 11-year-old girl was gang raped in Cleveland, TX. In that case, 19 men and boys are suspected to be involved. The New York Times‘ original reporting of the incident drew criticism from many, including Carolyn, for being sympathetic toward the alleged perpetrators while callously describing the victim as a girl who dressed “older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.” The Times has since tried to make amends with a follow-up article which came out earlier this week.
With two such disturbing and similar cases drawing nationwide attention in such rapid succession, one cannot help but wonder just how prevalent such crimes are. Over on Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory breaks down these types of cases with the help of David Finkelhor, who is the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Finkelhor tells Clark-Flory that despite two such high-profile crimes in such a short timespan, these cases are actually incredibly uncommon. The majority of rapes are committed by a single perpetrator. Oddly enough, however, the gang rapes which do occur are often carried out by minors. Finkelhor explained that “Juveniles are much more likely to commit almost all of their criminal acts in crowds. Peer pressure is strong at that age and resistance skills are not.”
More noteworthy facts about these types of crimes:
- Perpetrators of sexual assault on minors are often juveniles themselves: 39%.
- 95% of child victims know their attacker. 42% are family members and 53% are acquaintances or friends. That’s what’s so unusual about the California case where the victim did not know her alleged attackers. Though, again, that makes sense if the crime was, as authorities believe, part of a gang ritual.
- Tragically, 67% of all sexual assault cases (from fondling to rape) are committed against minors. 34% are under 12, a statistic which Clark-Flory attributes to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Of course, the above are just numbers. Behind them are real lives which get torn apart. And no number could ever possibly approximate the toll such crimes take on the victims who endure them.