Sunday 26 July 2009

Child twice raped by boys and parental abandonment

A girl raped by boys

In fact, this is the blog I planned to write but the last blog [1] had become too long an introduction to remain as one blog.

In Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, an 8-year-old girl is lured with sweets into a scheme that must have been contemplated, analysed, planned, hatched and then executed by four boys aged between 9 and 14.

She was entranced by their entreaties, took the bait and got held down for 10 to 15 minutes as she was sexually assaulted [2] by seemingly innocuous and innocent kids. Basically, she was raped by what some parents would call their little angels.

It was her screams that saved her from a more unspeakable ordeal, but whatever had happened was unspeakable already.

Innocence, resistance and consequence

The girl was only 8 years old, it is possible that she would have been none the wiser that she should not take sweets from strangers, but the strangers we are taught to refuse sweets from are grown-ups not our peers.

It is not said if the boys were known to the girl such that she would have had nothing to fear, but once lured and then kidnapped, it is impossible to see how an 8-year-old girl would have fared in resisting and overpowering 4 boys, two of whom were 13 and 14 to prevent her defilement.

This is sad enough, that boys can scheme to have an entitlement to sex and force it on an unsuspecting girl without any thought of the consequences of such an outrageously despicable act.

Sex and kids

When sex enters the picture, it is difficult to look at the situation as a boy and girl thing, sex is primarily the domain of adults, experimentation as kids can be seriously life-changing and the sexual abuse of children is just too dastardly for words.

The 14-year-old boy will be tried as an adult, which makes one wonder about the age of innocence and the consequence of actions that one takes as a kid only to be visited with force of the law as an adult. Many lives would be destroyed by the evil acts that lasted 10 short minutes.

The bane of fossilised Diaspora

However, back to the girl, the trauma of being raped, defiled, dishonoured, dis-virgined and violated under duress cannot be fathomed, this is a time when a child should be able to run into the waiting empathetic arms of their parents and find succour, support, care, concern, love, understanding and strength to begin to put the tragic event into distant memory.

In what I can only call fossilised Diaspora – I’ll explain – the tendency for those in Diaspora to take their root cultures to new lands and then find themselves left behind by both their original culture and their host societies – the parents have disowned the 8-year-old girl citing she had shamed them and did not want her back.

Making the victim a perpetrator

I think, this is an outrageous burden to place on a child for all sorts of reasons but one that stands out unforgivably is the implicit view that anyone raped is partly responsible for being a victim.

By saying the 8-year-old girl, and remember, this girl is 8 years old, has shamed them, they have placed a greater responsibility than can or should have be expected on a girl who could never have been aware of the trap that was being set for her. An innocent defiled is made guilty by intemperate belief systems.

Twice raped by violation and rejection

The concept of fossilised Diaspora is evident because the people involved are Liberian immigrants living in America, the President of Liberia added her voice to the disquiet when she said the parents were doing “something that is no longer acceptable in our society here.”

By implication, certain societies stigmatise and castigate the rape victim, making the victim just as culpable for being raped. Where the milk of human kindness and compassion should provide succour the family takes on a pall of shame and disowns the victim who becomes an unfortunate victim, twice raped by the act and the rejection.

Thankfully, this horrible act did not happen in Liberia where it probably would have gone unpunished but in the United States. It appears these Liberian immigrants need to be dragged like slaves of old kicking, screaming and so reluctantly into the modern age now.

Parental responsibility

The girl is now under the care of the Arizona Child Protection Services (ACPS) and would probably have to be adopted and raised by some more understanding and loving family.

More so, it speaks volumes about an aspect of African child-rearing that rarely gets talked about where providing shelter, food and education is automatically equated with love when those elements are just matters of fundamental responsibility.

Because if there was real parental love, it is unlikely that the girl would have been disowned in the moment of her greatest need. In fact, one would have expected the parents to treat this as an affliction as serious as a very ill child, but they had been schooled in despicable old cultural norms which had been superseded by modernity.

This is abandonment, simple

In what smacks of deplorable political correctness, the police have suggested of the parents, “They didn’t abandon the child, they committed no crime. They just didn’t support the child, which led to CPS coming over there.”

I see things differently, if you do not support your 8-year-old child because of something that happened to the child apart from death, you have abandoned that child and it should attract the heaviest sanctions possible. This is in the realm of basic parental responsibility in which whatever happened to that child cannot be entirely divorced from the kind of upbringing the parents have given the child.

Withdrawing support is too fanciful for words, just imagine if life support were withdrawn from the parents, what fanciful twist of words would be offered to explain the consequence of that?

The parents need evaluation

In the least, those parents should in the circumstances be deprived of custody of this child, if there are other siblings, the circumstances in that home should be evaluated to ensure that parental support does not get withdrawn on the whim of some other old cultural norm – they should be under the threat of losing the custody of any siblings and future siblings.

Furthermore, as the President of Liberia suggested, they are in need of radical counselling, first to understand parental responsibility in the modern age, then to appreciate the vagaries of child-rearing and also be educated about the trauma of child sexual abuse which should be more about how it affects the child and not about their standing in society. Shame on those shameless parents.

No society or community, indigenous or in Diaspora should be able to stand and be counted when keeping face trumps dealing compassionately and tenderly with the sexual abuse of a child and most especially when it is rape.


[1] Thought Picnic: Preserving childhood sexual innocence

[2] BBC NEWS | Americas | Outcry over disowned US rape girl

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