Eleven-year-old allegedly raped in Fresno

And it’s being touted as another sports scandal.

I would think that the allegations of gang rape of an eleven-year-old would be a scandal in and of itself, sports or not.

UPDATE: I’d like to point everyone toward punkass marc’s post about how the media spins child rape when it’s at the hands of “our boys,” and how the fact that this spin is effective reflects our opinions about the value of women. His post focuses on the reports of U.S. soldiers raping an Iraqi girl and killing her family, and media reports calling the 14-year-old girl a “woman.”

Gosh, it’s thoughtful of the mainstream media to credit Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi for being so wise for her age. I mean, thanks to a few US soldiers raping her and then murdering her and her family, she won’t be getting any older, but it’s good to know so there’s unity on her maturity. After all, documents show she wasn’t going to turn 15 until later this year — August 19th, to be exact — but many of the news agents of this country have decided to refer to her exclusively as a woman.


The girl was 14. A kid. Hardly a “young woman,” barely a teenager, and certainly not a “woman.”

So why does this spin matter? Well, because we react far more negatively to the idea of a girl being raped than to a woman being raped. Raping a girl is considered a worse crime than raping a grown women. I fell into that trap, too, when I was writing this post — the eleven year-old-girl part of it was shocking, and it’s what I stressed, instead of just being disgusted that a human being was raped.

Now, I think part of that disgust comes from the idea that we protect our young, and the theory that we should especially look out for the most vulnerable of society. But I think another part of it is the conflation of rape with sex — that is, the thought that rape is at least sexually motivated, and what kind of disgusting human being is sexually attracted to an eleven-year-old?

As a feminist, I should have known better. I know that rape is motivated by power and dominance, not an uncontrollable sexual urges. I know that youth or virginity or innocence do not make one human being more valuable than another. And so I apologize for the initial tone of this post, and I’m embarassed that I presented it that way. I don’t have a good excuse, and I’m glad that a commenter pointed this mistake out to me. All I can say is that I’m still learning, and I’m glad that other people are better at flushing out these thoughts than I am. So I’ll leave you with Marc:

I recognize that ingrained in all of us is the inclination to care more about puppies than dogs and more about kids than adults. Most creatures have been known on occasion to exhibit some level of increased mercy to the young, their own or others’. I understand that attacks on children will inherently feel more outrageous to us, always.

But shouldn’t the rape and murder of a woman be almost as offensive? Shouldn’t the difference in outrage go from extra-extra-extra pissed off to extra-extra-extra-extra pissed off? Shouldn’t that sliver of distinction be small enough as not to warrant the AP’s framing strategy?

The earliest reports listed Abeer’s age at around 25. How is it that the press believes fostering this misinformation will make her agony and death _that much more_ palatable than if it were attached to her actual age of 14? Her life should not lose much value in those 11 years.

Sadly, for no small amount of our populace, the label “woman” implies your best years are behind you. A girl is full of hopes, dreams, and virginity, but they see a woman as used goods, overripe and discardable. At best, they figure, a woman can only give of herself to others — her kids and her husband — and as such, has little value on her own.

This is clearly a frame. The notion that this is an effective frame disgusts me, but it’s probably the truth. And it says an awful lot about what people in this country really think of women.


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14 comments for “Eleven-year-old allegedly raped in Fresno

  1. July 13, 2006 at 6:57 am

    I would think that the allegations of gang rape of an eleven-year-old would be a scandal in and of itself, sports or not.

    I would hope that the allegations of gang rape of anyone would be a scandal in and of itself, young age or not.

  2. July 13, 2006 at 6:57 am

    I loved the account from the witness who saw the alleged rapists with the girl:

    She described her as petite, and said she didn’t look 11, but “didn’t look of age either.” She said the girl appeared to be about 15, and she didn’t think twice about it.

    I can see this type of thinking turning very quickly into one of those “girls are growing up too fast” stories in which the victim gets blamed for her own misfortune.

    And yes, I’m a little surprised the “sports scandal” gets top priority over the rape of an eleven-year old girl. But apparently corruption amongst athletes makes a more shocking headline these days, as if it’s not come to be generally expected that these guys – especially when in large numbers – can be a real bunch of pigs.

  3. July 13, 2006 at 7:00 am

    I would hope that the allegations of gang rape of anyone would be a scandal in and of itself, young age or not.

    Absolutely.

  4. j0lt
    July 13, 2006 at 7:53 am

    At least one of the radio show’s hosts had a clue:

    Inga Barks, the show’s host, questioned why the football exploits of those involved have anything to do with coverage.
    “If a guy is accused of raping an 11-year-old kid,” she said, “I don’t want to know their athletic history, I want to know the details of the case.”

    Unsurprising that, judging by name, its a woman who understood how absurd the spin on this story is.

  5. July 13, 2006 at 9:00 am

    I heard that at first it was being reported that the victim in Iraq was 24, not 14, so maybe someone just switched out the number and not the noun in their article. Or maybe it’s a case of bad translation? Just possibilities.

    And I think the fact that we’re more disgusted by the rape of a child doesn’t mean that we’re not disgusted by the rape of an adult woman. Children don’t have the means to defend themselves or the adult perspective that can help with recovery. It’s just more for a kid to process.

  6. frumiousb
    July 13, 2006 at 9:20 am

    1. Her life should not lose much value in those 11 years.

    Absolutely. Adults have as much value as children, and a crime is a crime regardless of the age of the victim.

    2. Rape is more about domination than about sex, but there is an aspect of picking a child to dominate that is different from picking an adult. Not worse, mind you, different. Most child molestors stick to children and don’t rape adults. It is a different type of victim that they seek. We can acknowledge this without lessening the crime commited when adults are raped.

    3. but we don’t, and I totally agree with you about the spin created when refering to a 14 yr old as a woman.

  7. July 13, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Sara,

    No mistake is possible, I’m afraid. Many, many examples of the exclusive use of “woman” to describe this girl _after_ her age was uncovered are documented in my post. This is deliberate, I’m afraid.

  8. Dianne
    July 13, 2006 at 11:11 am

    What makes calling a 14 year old girl a woman all the more odd is that adult women are frequently called girls, especially when speaking of their accomplishments. Girl-band, girl-designer, girl-aerospace engineer, etc.

  9. Casey
    July 13, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    (Didn’t want to be off-topic, but wanted to pass this along)

    In case we want to know how to further prevent rape, the police in London have a few tips to share. http://go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=12831285&src=rss/oddlyEnoughNews

    Apparently we should all wear nice pants and make sure we’re properly waxed.

  10. Cassandra
    July 13, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    To be fair, I don’t know for sure that the extra outrage on sex crimes–or crimes in general–on children vs. adults is entirely gender based. It shows up more for women in rape cases because more women are raped, but there was a fair bit of outrage in the whole Catholic priest molestation scandal, many victims of which were boys; I don’t think if those boys were raped as adult men it would have been quite as outrageous to a lot of people, or if it had and the rapist had been male it might have had more to do with the homosexual aspect of it (homosexual as in two men in the act, not as in a statement on the gayness of the attacker).

    I do the same thing; today I was in the doctor’s office reading Parenting magazine (I still go to a pediatrician) (speaking of which, damn, you should check that out if you want some blog fodder; it’s called “Parenting,” not “Mothering,” but it’s aimed exclusively for women, and one article in particular was a big fan of dads-are-helpless stereotypes). Anyway in the magazine was an article on shaken baby syndrome, and my horror and disgust reading the horror stories of parents who came home to find their children in the emergency rooms and themselves under suspicion of child abuse because the sitter had lost her/his temper far outweighed, I know, the visceral gut reaction I would have had if I had read of an adult being shaken to death.

    I was thinking about that and thinking it had something to do with innocence, but now I think it’s not so much innocence as helplessness; which, obviously, an adult is still helpless against five attackers in guns, but it’s like, damn, a baby can’t even feed itself. Again, not any more logical, really, but that’s where it comes from, I think, at least in me.

  11. July 13, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Are they STILL referring to her as a “woman”? Or have they changed their tune?

  12. July 13, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    And yes, I’m a little surprised the “sports scandal” gets top priority over the rape of an eleven-year old girl. But apparently corruption amongst athletes makes a more shocking headline these days, as if it’s not come to be generally expected that these guys – especially when in large numbers – can be a real bunch of pigs.

    Part of that is the disgust (we) locals have– the sports teams have long been accused of getting special treatment, excuses, and the like.

    Plus, as a special bonus, as this was being reported, the murder trial of another athlete was just winding up, so we’re predisposed to see it as more out of control athletes.

  13. July 13, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    We believe that the *murderer* is more heinous for picking someone weaker and more helpless, not that the weaker and more helpless victim is more valuable (if we are logical people who do not operate solely on emotions.) The man who rapes or beats or kills a 70 year old is likewise seen as more monstrous, because of the proportionate frailty and helplessness of his victim. Thus the crime is worse, because the intention of the criminal is worse, at least in so far as the value is shared that it is more depraved and dishonorable the weaker those one chooses to prey on are.

  14. July 15, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Casey, that Safe! crap is worse than I thought. In British, “pants” = panties, so they’re not saying to wear trousers in order to delay an attacker, but, just as with the waxing, women should dress up their display.

    bellatrys, I knew someone who didn’t understand why a rapist would assault an elderly woman, given that he shouldn’t sexualize her and one presumably didn’t have to ask what she was wearing, in what part of town, or at what time of night.

    The Duke rapists were referred to as “boys.”

    In the bizarrely titled “Not Just Another Abuse Scandal,” a Washington Post columnist condemns the rape of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, and dismisses the potential argument that it was “rape as a tactic of war,” and does not condemn such rape.

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