Last week, a 12 year-old girl from Baltimore County, Maryland, was abducted on her way to school. She was found over the weekend in North Carolina. A man had abducted her and taken her there. The most horrible thing is that he raped her. Even more horrible, in my opinion, is that this has happened to her in an era of mass media and social media. Surely, this will stick with her for the rest of her life.
To add insult to injury, this is how some of the media are portraying her:
“Police had previously said the preteen was very active on social media and had a history of communicating with men, including those in other states, by email, text and apps using an Xbox and wifi or an iPod Touch.”
That right there has triggered all sorts of stupidity in the comments sections of news outlets. Comments from people blaming the parents and the girl herself poured in. Very few — too few — are blaming the adult man who lured, kidnapped and raped her.
Yes, I understand that parents have some degree of responsibility in policing their children’s activity online. I also understand that too many parents think that being their children’s “friend” is more important than being a parent. That’s all fine and good.
What I do not understand is the relative level of blame that a 12 year-old is receiving for her own abduction and rape. It is as if these people have forgotten what their minds were like when they were 12 years old. Back then, 99% of our decisions were not based on experience — since we had none — and things that seemed like “fun” or “good ideas” were actually not good ideas at all. I have the scars to prove it. We all do.
Now this little girl is going to have some very serious scars because a 30-something year old man lured her away from her path to school and all the way to North Carolina. And then he raped her.
Sure, there are plenty of people coming out against him for what he did, but even most of those people are angry because he is an undocumented/illegal immigrant who has already been deported once. One of the talk radio hosts in the area were quick to draw a straight line between the Obama administration and this incident, ignoring all the other failed attempts at immigration reform and border security from the President’s predecessors.
But let’s go back to the little girl. In the days after her abduction, her name and picture were plastered all over the mid-Atlantic region. I’m sure this had some influence in her being found. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that this will have the effect of her name and face being easily found via a Google search for a very long time. We already know that employers google potential applicants.
And what can I say about her social life from now on, especially when plenty of people are quick to place blame on her?
Unfortunately for all of us, men and women, there is a pervasive culture of blaming victims of rape. Either they were dressed too provocatively, drank too much, walked down the wrong street… Something. We always seem to find something to blame on the victim of rape. Why?
I think that it’s because we’ve come to see sexuality in men as something that is uncontrollable, as something that drives us. The “boys will be boys” thing has become intertwined in our collective consciousness. Because we see males in other species do some incredibly self-injurious things for sex, we think that human males must be the same. “Men can’t help but rape when they don’t get their way,” we seem to say.
That type of thinking has disgusted me ever since I was in middle school back in Texas. Back then, there was some fat cat politician running for governor. He said this:
“He compared the cold, foggy weather spoiling the event to a rape, telling ranch hands, campaign workers and reporters around a campfire, ‘If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.'”
I remember my history teacher, a woman, telling us about the man’s statement and telling us how disgusting it was that a man in a position of power could joke about such a horrible crime. Throughout the rest of my life, similar off-the-cuff “jokes” about rape have made me question a society that sees this as normal or acceptable, or laughs at something like that.
Theft can sometimes be explained. The thief can say that they were trying to feed their family. Homicide? The killer can say that they were defending themselves. But rape? How can you justify rape under any circumstance? You don’t rape to feed your family or defend your home. You don’t rape to gain wealth or get money. It’s vile. It’s violent. It is the closest a human being can be to the embodiment of evil… And there are people who laugh at it, blame the victim, try and justify it, or ignore it.
Great job, humans.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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