Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Crowd Watching, Homecoming Gang Rape

With many other Americans, I continue to struggle with the details of the homecoming dance gang rape in Richmond, Ca. The gang rape is enough horror of its own, but the crowd watching, some cheering and taking cell phone photos but doing nothing to stop the atrocity, is a twisting of the knife.

If you've visited this blog before, then you know that I write poetry and prayers related to youth violence and other issues that concern mothers/parents. I felt a poem on the homecoming rape should be posted here.

Daughter, Our Daughter
By Nordette N. Adams

When I was young, I sought boys' praise, hoping a knight
scooped me up onto his fast white stallion. On the radio
the Temptations and Supremes made love between women and men
seem like a sweet thing, wild sugar cane, precious as pearls good.

And our daughters dream these dreams still, ignore our push
to higher ground, neglect our wish that they first gift themselves
with the self esteem we lacked. Perhaps into our DNA is
hacked a thirst for male attention.

When I was young, I worried to fit in, lamented to my mother
"Sometimes, Mama, I have no friends." Oh, to be Marsha Brady!
Or dance on the beach with Frankie and Annette. Growing.
Older, I don't regret knowing myself.

And our daughters in their teens dream the old dreams.
To fit in and have friends, maybe they trust the wrong grin.
Yearning for acceptance, soft, tender, renders them easy prey.
Too eager to follow the concealed foe.

When I was young I dreamed I might have children, a boy
and girl for whom I'd string better pearls. As offerings
I'd raise each up to do this world no harm.
I'd mold noble souls.

And our sons see us work to make for them and their sisters
a viable life. The adoration pours from our breasts. Our
maternal potency commands respect. Why do they not
confer our honor on girls at the mall, in school halls?

I am old, having abandoned the error of youth but taken on sorrow
hearing of a girl ravaged by wolves. Undone a stone's throw from
music. Did she dream the dreams I once dreamt, to be the belle
spun by the boy, believing safety's with friends?

That daughter's shed an innocence no woman reclaims. We do not
know her name but her pain too many of us women know well.
To our fathers, our husbands, our sons ... How
do we restring this broken strand of pearls?

(c) Copyright 2009 Nordette N. Adams

Heinous crimes conjure a grief-stricken, sometimes angry, sometimes more reflective muse. I write poetry and prayers to work through these bouts of malaise over societal decay. Believe me, while the gang rape took place in Richmond, Ca., living in New Orleans, La., and listening to the nightly news, is not conducive to sweet dreams.

The story of the gang rape prompted this poem and also hearing that the victim was not popular at school.
(Post updated 10/30 with this quote) ... One story getting particular attention this morning is based on comments made by the victims' friends at a safety meeting held at the school Wednesday night.

In an article posted on CNN International, a picture begins to emerge of the 15-year-old victim, who had come alone to her homecoming dance, "gorgeous in a sparkling purple dress and faux diamond baubles."

... Baker later described the 15-year-old girl as a churchgoer who struggled to fit in at Richmond High.(source)
The possibility that she'd been drinking and ignoring for a moment that a minor should not have had access to alcohol, I wonder if a need to be liked and to fit in contributed to her willingness to follow a boy she thought she knew into a darkened area of the campus. I've heard that predators, like the young males who raped this girl, sometimes hone in on people who they can tell are looking for connection.

This is not saying it's the victim's fault because the scary thing is that most of us are looking for connection, and sometimes even when we're strong and confident we may find ourselves unwittingly in the presence of wolves. When you're a 15-year-old girl, possibly unaware of the depths of human treachery, the danger increases. In fact, as I wrote at WSATA, I have a friend who was gang raped as a teen. She too followed a friend who turned out to not be a friend at all, and she was liked in high school.

In addition, I recall hearing of these types of incidents in college. A guy would invite a girl who he knew trusted him or liked him to his room, and then he and his friends would gang rape her. They called it running a train. Sometimes they drugged the girl to keep her quiet. You heard the stories, but never heard them from official sources. The girls, embarrassed, thinking it was their fault or not wanting to be labeled as rape victims, did not always report the rapes.

As for a gang rape and a crowd watching, every time I hear such cases I'm baffled that 1.) a group of people could rape a person and 2.) that people could watch and do nothing tot stop it. I was raised to not stand by and watch another person be abused, and so I can't wrap my head around not at least going off to call the police unless someone was keeping you from calling via gunpoint. Some psychologists have explained the willingness to watch and do nothing as Genovese Syndrome, named for a woman whose murder was overhead by neighbors who did not call the police. The theory's been disputed in some circles saying the facts of the Kitty Genovese case on which the theory is based are inaccurate.

According to CNN, some of the students are beginning to speak out about the school district's failure to create a safe environment. That's a ray of hope for the community that the Richmond school district has some students who care.

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