Got an email the other day from an HU college buddy asking me to sign a petition started by Change.org asking that I “Tell the New York Times to issue a published apology for their coverage of this incident and publish an editorial from a victim’s rights expert on how victim blaming in the media contributes to the prevalence of sexual assault.”
But before signing anything, I wanted to read the article myself and this is what stood out to me.
What was said of the alleged rapists fits succinctly in one paragraph:
Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. A few of the others have criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old.
And this is what was said/reported of the victim:
“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. 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.
“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”
And although the NYT stands by the article, saying that the reactions of the assault are not their own just what they found in their reporting this line of unquoted material was enough to furrow my brow:
The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?
Just those words “drawn in…” (emphasis clearly mine) coupled with “their young men” seem dipped in patriarchal rapist-sympathetic sentiment to me. As if these young men were lured in, or made a wrong turn somewhere and oops committed a heinous crime to a girl of 11.
When New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades stresses that “As for residents’ references to the accused having to ‘live with this for the rest of their lives,’ those are views we found in our reporting. They are not our reporter’s reactions” I don’t buy it.
The NYT is known for its in-depth reporting but when you report on the description on the girl’s style of dress and comings and goings are you implicitly saying that it has a significant role in the rape that ensues? Methinks yes.
What about you?
Since we are on the topic of ethics and sexual violence, *should the names of rape victims ever be published? There is the question of privacy but we do not afford that same privilege to those who have allegations and charges (not convictions). By continuing the practice of name-omission are we also applying a stigma of shame to victims, implicitly instructing them that although they are not a criminal it is a crime they should keep to themselves?
*question is general, not specific to this case which involved a minor.