Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gang Rape on a High School Campus is More than "Unfortunate"

Severe trigger warning.

This past weekend, a 15 year-old high school student was gang raped for two hours outside her homecoming dance while a group of people (students and adults) watched.

This horrific crime occurred just up the freeway from where I live and I have been surprised by the coverage the case has received in the local media. Reporters and police have repeatedly underscored that while the survivor is physically recovering, she has suffered an emotional and psychological assault as well.
"She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other's presence," said Lt. Mark Gagan, a patrol supervisor in the city's Northern Policing District.
While I am sure that this crime is recieving more attention than others because of where it took place, it also seems to resonate with the local police and media because of the underlying fact that people watched a girl getting viciously gang raped and did nothing to stop it, "What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening, and failed to report it." Some reports suggest that the crowd cheered the direct perpetrators on.

This is the result of a rape culture.

But, this incident also points to the many short comings of our schools - places where our children and teenagers should be safe.
The courtyard is pitch-black at night, making it difficult to see into it from 23rd.

"(Lighting) is an ongoing issue for all our sites," school district spokesman Marin Trujillo said. "That particular section does have lighting. Could it be better? That's something we're always reviewing."

The school district plans to install surveillance cameras by January at the campus, a project long in the works. Plans for new fencing have been in the works since March.

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have this finalized a little bit sooner," Ramsey said. "But we've been on top of this issue (safety). Our board is working very proactively to make sure we stay on top of the issue."
While we cannot place the blame solely on the school - the people who perpetrated this atrocity are to blame - we can certainly fault the school, the district and the state, for not making the safety of it's students a higher priority.

The budget crisis that California schools are facing is nothing new, and certainly not limited to higher education. But lack of funding and a reluctance to place student safety as a top priority also helped to facilitate this assault and that is not just "unfortunate." A fifteen year-old girl is now the survivor of a vicious gang rape.

However, we must also be clear that lighting and staffing will not solve this problem by themselves - they are not the only ways we can work to keep our communities safe. The disturbing roots of the culture that permits this type of hatred to exist run deep, and often in broad daylight.

Update: Anna N. at Jezebel asks some good questions about the crowd mentality.

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