October must be the month for school dances in California.
Three weeks ago, I flew out to Los Angeles to help my 15 year old god-daughter prepare for her first one. I think I was more excited than she was at one point in the evening when she let me do her makeup and hair, help her pick out jewelry and once we figured out she was wearing open toed shoes...I even painted her toenails; 'cause that's what "Aunties" do! She and her 5 girlfriends had chipped in for a limo for the evening and I cried as the baby I held in the front of a church 15 years earlier standing next to her parents...left for her first school dance. I was so filled with joy for what this would mean in her memory bank. The jokes they would tell, the stories they would have, the boys they would giggle about. Oh, to be 15 on this night...I wouldn't want it again...but I sure as heck wanted the experience for her.
Fast forward just two weeks later and I imagine another family doing something very similar in Richmond, California. A 15 year-old and her mother or "Aunties" helped pick out a cute dress, some high-heeled shoes and decided on the hair do that would "set it all off" because the big dance at Richmond High School was that night. I'll bet she met her girlfriends at the dance, they laughed and danced and pointed out the cute fellas. Boy was she going to have stories when her dad picked her up from the dance. At 15, she probably walked out of the gymnasium thinking...this is the best night of my life...
She couldn't have be more wrong. At around 9:30pm, she walked out of her school and accepted an invitation to hang a little bit longer in a courtyard...literally yards from the school.
What she walked into was not a group that wanted to add to the joy of her night, but a group of about a dozen boys and young men already well into gallons of vodka. I don't know if it was peer pressure that made her drink with these guys or a desire to just extend the fun of the evening, but soon after a few drinks of brandy, the guys starting propositioning and pressuring her for sex. Probably sensing the imminent danger she was now in, the girl said no. But these men weren't taking no for an answer.
What ensued was 2 1/2 hours of vicious and horrific 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. After suffering a horror that cannot be adequately described or imagined, the police finally rescued this semi-conscious, beaten, bloodied and brutalized child.
She has a long road to recovery. I've interviewed enough rape victims over the years to know that no woman ever "gets over" a rape...the best you can hope for is to "get through" the trauma and re-build your trust in humanity. I send this child and her family prayers of strength as she starts that process.
Becoming "whole" again is her job with the help of her friends and family, but we, as a society have a job also. First and foremost, we owe it to her to find each and every one of her attackers, and all those who induced, persuaded, convinced, prompted, encouraged, instigated, incited, urged, goaded, aided, assisted and facilitated this attack to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
We in the media owe it to her to report this story and follow this investigation with the same fervor and attention that we would give the family of a six year old allegedly floating through the sky in a makeshift balloon.
Law Enforcement owes it to her to passionately pursue justice on her behalf as if she were a 15 year old blond middle class girl gang raped by a bunch of thugs outside a suburban homecoming dance. The community where the attack occurred may be minority, poor and notoriously violent, but justice should be blind to race, economics and culture. When violence happens to wealthy photogenic "good" girls we take it on as a nationwide pain; well this child of a working class community deserves our collective pain as well.
I refuse to believe that I live in a society that deems the life and pain of a less privileged woman less important. But allow me to remind you that when Kanye West hijacked the microphone from Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards, the collective outrage was palpable. Society cared so much that Twitter crashed and everything from Facebook to the talking heads of every news network, blog, and radio station across the country was awash in calls for Kanye's head. I pray that we show this young woman who will need a "village" to help her heal from the wounds of this attack that we don't live in a culture in which oceans of humanity will speak up for a celebrity who hardly needs attention or help, but have no voice for a girl is brutalized behind a school by two dozen men and boys.
My 15 year-old god-daughter came home from her school dance with a cadre of memories that will last a lifetime...so did this 15 year old and it breaks my heart. I can't close my eyes now without thinking of what she endured...and survived. And none of us should sleep soundly until justice is done.
Posted by Star Jones Esq at 10:52 AM