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In 2 Gang Rape Cases, Communities Blame 11-Year-Old Victims

Mar 8, 2011 – 6:13 PM
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David Lohr

David Lohr Senior Crime Reporter

Authorities in Texas have arrested more than a dozen suspects in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl. There is outrage and there is anger -- but much of it is being directed at the victim. Something similar has also happened in Michigan, where another 11-year-old was gang raped.

"People have a tendency to say, 'Boys will be boys.' That is a common mentality now," Dr. Walter E. Afield, a nationally known mental health expert, told AOL News. "But rape can be just bad as murder, and if they had killed an 11-year-old people would be outraged."

In Texas, the girl's mother says she has been receiving harassing phone calls from people asking for her daughter.

"[People] keep calling and asking for her," the victim's mother, identified only as Maria, told The Houston Chronicle. "They don't believe me when I say she's not here and cuss us out. They're trying to find her."

Maria's daughter has told police that at least 20 teenagers and men attacked her on Thanksgiving. The girl said she was taken to an abandoned home in Cleveland, 50 miles northeast of Houston, where she was forced to have sex with them under the threat of violence, police said.

Details of the gang rape did not surface until days later, when cell phone video recordings of the assault surfaced at Cleveland High School. According to the Chronicle, a student who recognized the victim and several of her attackers notified school officials. Since that time, 17 suspects, ages 14 to 27, have been charged.

"There are five who attend public schools," Cleveland Assistant Police Chief Darrel Broussard told AOL News. "Everyone knows them."

James D. Evans III, an attorney who represents four of the defendants, told CNN the entire ordeal is a "tragic" situation. "The families are dealing with it. It is [a] very stressful environment," he said.

Some are pointing a finger at the victim's parents.

"Where were they when this girl was seen wandering at all hours with no supervision and pretending to be much older?" Cleveland resident Kisha Williams told the Chronicle.

Maria told the Chronicle she believes her daughter may have been seeking attention in the past and says she and her husband had once questioned their daughter about a lurid photo of a boy that was found on a cell phone she used, but she says the boys should have known better.

"These guys knew she was in middle school," Maria said. "You could tell that whenever you talked to her. She still loves stuffed bears."

The Texas case is somewhat similar to one that is making its way through the legal system in Michigan right now.

In June, five teenagers, ages 15 to 19, allegedly gang-raped an 11-year-old girl in Eastpointe, Mich. A portion of the incident was captured on a cell phone video. The suspects claim they did not know her age, police said.

Authorities said the girl was not physically threatened, but felt coerced and intimidated into complying.

"When you see five young men take advantage of an 11-year-old girl," Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith told The Detroit News, "it is our job to make sure they pay for it."

If convicted, the teenagers could face up to life in prison.

The outcomes of the Michigan and Texas cases are yet to be seen. But in Maria's case, she says the wait for justice is compounded by the emotions of residents.

Maria says she has received so many angry phone calls that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has placed her daughter in foster care for her own safety.

Gwen Carter, a spokeswoman for the department, would not discuss Maria's claims. "We're not able to comment on that family," Carter told AOL News. According to local media outlets, a judge issued a gag order Friday preventing the agency from discussing the case.

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Broussard said he is not aware of any harassing phone calls to the girl's family.

"I don't have any knowledge of that at all," he said. "[But] there has been some upset parents of those who were taken into custody, but of course I mean something like this in a small community tends to cause unrest for a lot of people."

Afield says he would not be surprised if what the mother is saying is true.

"I have seen this more and more in the past five years or so," said Afield, who serves as medical director at the Neuropsychiatric Institute in Tampa, Fla. "Sex is everywhere today. We see it on soap operas and in the movies -- love means sex. That is the lesson being taught, but [this child] certainly did not deserve what happened."
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