Thursday, March 24, 2011

Victim Blaming in NYTimes

By Daniella Galaviz

In a New York Times article, entitled “Vicious Assaults Shakes Texas Town” by James C. McKinley, McKinley goes as far as blaming an 11 year old girl for a sexual attack made against her.  The article begins by speaking about the boys future “the boys have to live with this the rest of their lives” but what about the victim? Five of the suspects were in high school, one was a 21 year old son of a school board member, a few have criminal records that range from selling drugs to robbery, and in one case, manslaughter. The ages range from middle schoolers to a 27- year old.  These “boys” knew what they were doing. This11 year old girl, however, is not old enough to consent.

Victim blaming is holding the victim of a crime or any type of abusive maltreatment to be responsible for the transgressions committed against them. In this case an 11 year old girl was brutally assaulted. The assault took place after a 19 year old man invited the victim to ride around in his car, he took her to a house where another man, 19, lived.  There the girl was disrobed and sexuality assaulted by several boys in the bedroom and bathroom. When a relative of one of the suspects arrived, the group fled and went to an abandoned mobile home, where the assault continued. There the assault was recording and later shown to other students (McKinley, 2011).

McKinley goes on to state that the 11 year old girl had been seen wearing provocative clothes, and make-up, not suited for her age but rather for a woman in her 20s. Even though this child, might wear provocative clothes it does not mean that others have the right to sexually assault them. The word provocative is defined as “Serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate” according to Merriam-Webster. This young girl didn't intentionally or willingly try to “provoke” or “excite” these men. No women who has been sexually assaulted tries to provoke their attackers into committing such a crime.

In the article, “Did the New York Times Blame the 11 Year Old Victim of a Texas Gang Rape?” by Andrea Grimes, Grimes mentions how irrelevant stating that an 11 year old wearing make-up was. Grimes states that McKinley, a graduate of Cornell University, should have known better than to print this information in a national news article. By printing how some people perceived an 11-year-old child to dress in a sultry, sexy way doesn’t give readers information they need – which is the fact that this is a horrible thing that happened in our society. Writing about how people in the community thought about the boys' welfare rather than the girl's perpetuates rape culture not only within the small community itself in Texas, but all over the nation. It gives those who want one an excuse to dismiss the behavior of 18 men who have been suspected of gang-raping an 11-year-old girl.

When a woman, in this case a child, is raped or sexually molested society always questions the victim rather than facing the actual culprit and investigating why they did it or how they could have committed such a crime. Society instead blames the victim with common ideas like “if she hadn't been wearing clothes like that..” or “she was asking for it” or “she shouldn't have been walking around that late.” It is sickening that society even questions what a woman must have done to provoke sexual assault. Instead of blaming the victim, society should look at the real problem, the perpetrator.

Now, to be fair, the NYTimes publication did come out and tried to re-examine the article, breaking it down into sections and pinpointing certain pieces that proved that the original author didn't mean to victim blame. However, they still use the same type of language as in the first article, "These elements, creating an impression of concern for the perpetrators and an impression of a provocative victim, led many readers to interpret the subtext of the story to be: she had it coming." Now, they did try to explain themselves and said that they were simply giving an insight into the community that was questioning the lack of supervision that left this young child at risk. This still puts blame on the victim's family when there should be investigation into the perpetrators family, the way they were raised, and how they lured such a young girl into this situation. 

The article continues, trying to clean up it's language and tone, "Philip Corbett, standards editor for The Times, told me earlier today that the story focused on the reaction of community residents and that there was no intent to blame the victim. He added, “I do think in retrospect we could have done more to provide more context to make that clear.”" This is something that the NYTimes and our patriarchal society needs to work on in general. I think they were woken up to this incident and rightfully so. 

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