Richmond, California, is a town with a lot of questions and no immediate answers following the brutal gang rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl at her homecoming dance — an attack watched by at least ten other people.
Richmond — located in the East Bay area of California, about 15 miles north of San Francisco — is a poverty-stricken industrial town that few outside of Northern California heard of until this week. It has been shoved into the spotlight, and the residents are angry over the public discussion of the incident. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Richmond High students want outsiders to stop calling them animals and savages. “We feel like they’re blaming the school,” an angry senior complained at a school board meeting. … “It wasn’t nobody’s fault,” she said. “People shouldn’t be pointing fingers.”
But somebody has to be at fault, starting with the young men who perpetrated the crime. The list of causes mentioned in the media coverage includes the school security staff, the school administration, the district, the local police, and the parents of the rapists and those who watched the attack.
Who can we not blame? From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Take the poverty-driven frustration of inner-city Richmond, a youth street culture that glorifies thugs and applauds degradation of women, and the desensitization of young men through violent video games, music and language, and you have a template for trouble.
The culprits are not video games and desensitization. It’s partly the fault of poverty and partly the fault of parents who have lost control of their kids and their own lives. It’s a school district that didn’t provide its students with the security and safety precautions necessary given the circumstances.
If all it took were violent video games or cartoons to make good kids go bad or to desensitize them to the point where they think brutally raping someone is acceptable behavior, this would happen every day in every town. There must be something else present, or specifically something not present, to make people behave like this.
In Richmond, there was a lack of accountability. Charles Johnson, one of Richmond High’s security specialists, says:
You wouldn’t believe the stuff we have to put up with those few who go wrong — guns, dope busts, fighting. … We know that courtyard, and we’ve been waiting for something to happen there. I’m sorry it had to be this terrible.
Waiting for something to happen? If the “security specialist” knew something was bound to happen, why were no preventive measures taken? If you know the courtyard in question and know it’s ripe for an incident, maybe some lights or better security would have gone a long way toward preventing an occurrence that has dramatically changed a young girl’s life forever.
And when school security saw non-students outside the school, why didn’t security chase them away? Why did no one think to guard the place where they’ve been “waiting for something to happen”?
Teachers cite a “climate of fear” on campus, where students are afraid to report any wrongdoings. But all that is just the first layer of blame. You need to dig deeper — and you first need to read this graphic account of what happened in that courtyard:
“They had her down on the bench and the bitch tried to kick ‘Tweak’ (one of the men) in the nuts,” said one young man, who said he had a first-hand account of the attack from Smith but was afraid of being named. “He went off on her, started hitting her, and then it was on. They pulled a train (a gang initiation-style rape, one after the other) on her.”
What ensued was 2 1/2 hours of beatings and raping, at times with a foreign object. The scene attracted onlookers, some calling others over by cell phone, and eventually there were as many as 10 men or boys sexually assaulting the girl while another 20 looked on, laughing and snapping pictures. Teachers and students were searching last week for at least one video that many said was filmed of the attack.
Obviously, the blame for what happened lies with more than just the school district and administration. A culture of fear, arrogance, criminality, and disregard for authority exists within the group that committed the crime as well as the group that watched.
It may have now evolved far past the stage where the parents of the people who took part in this travesty can do anything about what their children have become. But it is not too late for the community to form a united front against the “bad boys” in their town that live this criminal life.
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