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Saturday, March 12, 2011

New York Times reporter blamed a child for being gang-raped and, caused a massive outcry from more than 40,000 Change.org members.

I published a story about "the vicious gang-rape of an 11-year-old girl on the 8th this month. The crime it described was, indeed, heinous. The child was gang raped in an abandoned trailer house by as many as 30 men, with suspects ranging in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old. The attack came to light because several of the suspects took cell phone video of the assault.

We belong to a culture that blames victims for being raped - for what they were wearing, where they were, and who they were with - rather than blaming the rapist, a culture that tacitly condones rape. A society that is more concerned with how being held accountable for rape will impact the perpetrator than for the well being of the victim and, a society that doesn't take rape seriously.

1 in 4 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and, the statistics are no better for Europe. Still, that is nothing compared to the stats for continents such as Africa, but we are civilized in our part of the world Right? Wrong!

On March 8th however, the New York Times went too far. They published a story by James C. McKinley Jr. titled "Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town." where he tried to use the same strategy on the 11-year-old victim.

The New York Times reporter James C. McKinley reported the victim blaming sentiments of members of the Cleveland community in which the rape occurred as truth. McKinley insinuated the young woman had it coming, writing: "They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."

Oh really? And I take it the men were all both blind and mentally challenged, since they could believe that a little child playing with teddybears was that old. Also, is the reporter actually trying to say that it would have been quite alright to gang-rape someone if she was closer to 20 years old? It is of course a million times worse to attack a child, but wouldn't it be more appropriate to send the message that it's never ok to rape neither women nor children?! You see that's something even the inmates of prisons seems to be abundantly clear on. With the exception of the rapeists of course.

Mr. McKinley also gave ink to community members who are more concerned about the impact raping a child will have on the suspects than being raped will have on the young victim. Mr. McKinley quoted Sheila Harrison as saying, "“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

Aww, poor boys, right? Those poor things who all got a hard on and dropped their pants to help destroy a little girls life are gonna have to live with what they did? I'm crying!

After a massive outcry from more than 40,000 Change.org members, which led to news coverage in the Huffington Post, Village Voice, and even London’s Daily Mail, New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane has issued a strong rebuke of the victim-blaming in the article by reporter James McKinley about the gang-rape of the 11-year-old and her community's response.

Brisbane wrote said that the outrage was "understandable" and that the piece conveyed "an impression of concern for the perpetrators and an impression of a provocative victim" that "led many readers to interpret the subtext of the story to be: she had it coming."

The apology isn’t perfect as it decries the lack of "balance," as if the paper should be providing equal voice to the concerns of the victims and her alleged attackers. And unfortunately, while the story ran in section "A" of the Times, Brisbane’s commentary showed up only online, not in his weekly column.

But because the Times is so high-profile, this condemnation still sends an important message to reporters all around the U.S. that readers will hold them accountable for insinuating that victims are somehow responsible for playing a role in their own sexual assaults. And I'm proud to say that I'm one of the members of Change.org who helped make this happen. I hope you are too, or at least that you would have helped had you known about it.

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