The Richmond Gang Rape

National Public Radio's Richard Gonzales tells us that he grew up in Richmond, California. He and the other citizens of Richmond are finding it hard to believe that a 16 year old girl could be gang raped at the local high school at Homecoming.

Homecoming is supposed to be fun. The home team is going to win! Today's story:

The city of Richmond, Calif., continues to wrestle with the effects of a brutal attack on a teenage girl who was gang-raped at her high school. Some of the suspects in the case may enter their pleas in court Tuesday. At least 20 people saw the October incident but did not intervene.

Instead they took pictures.


The home-town journalist rightly blames poverty, the loss of new jobs in an industrial town that succumbed to crack cocaine in the eighties and hasn't exactly bounced back. Yet optimism had returned. Indeed, this "rough place" launched several kids each year to college, despite rising unemployment. It's hard to study when you've lost your home, a nice home. Like everywhere else, foreclosures are rife in Richmond.

The guidance counselor:
"The dehumanizing actions of these young men is frightening. Where was their humanity?"
A student tells us that she walked into the bathroom to find a naked girl. CNN reported the crime last October.
As many as 10 people were involved in the assault in a dimly lighted back alley at the school, while another 10 people watched without calling 911 to report it according to police.
Hundreds at the school condemned the attack on their schoolmate, steamed that outsiders recommended a quarantine be placed on the school. A senior:
"This happens everywhere, why single us out?"
Oy vey. She's right. Don't single out this school. Single out every school. Start teaching our children right from wrong, that sex is something that can be lawful, or not. There's a lot to know when it comes to sex, like it requires informed consent.

A rape crisis worker tells us that to rape you have to "other-ize" distance yourself sufficiently to detach, not care. In other words, de-empathize.
"Where there's no hope, empathy is hard to find."
I don't know, maybe. No doubt depression contributes to insularity, apathy. But nobody's tested those ten boys for depression. What you're going to find is anger, is my guess, and objectification.

What's objectification? Objectification is taking the human out of the body, seeing the body as a source of pleasure, like food. It is an object to be beat on, like the dog, on a bad day, or to be punished, like a kid who has acted out. When parents beat their children they are objectifying them, denying their humanity. You hurt? I don't care.

Rape is all about this. I don't care. You are here for me, nothing's going to stop me. One blogger writes a post Why Men Rape tells us the following
Sociologists have discussed women as objects, commodities to be bought or stolen—the pornographication of women, a process by which men relate to women as pornea, a Greek word for whores.

This perception of a woman’s body as property or a commodity is grounded not just historically, but in contemporary metaphors, language, and common slang for sex. Like:

Sex is a hunt, a conquest: I’m going to go out and get a piece of ass.

Sex is instruction: I know how to show a woman a good time.

A review of the literature into the etiology of rape indicates that overall, men who rape have rape supportive attitudes, misinterpret social clues, and blame the victim.

Younger offenders learn from their families, peers, or the media that their role in a relationship is to take the initiative in sexual relationships. This is called the dominance theory.
There's more. It's way down on the side-bar.

So sure, poverty contributes something to this mix. But I wouldn't overdo it. It's less about not having money, more about having human decency, understanding female sexuality, and knowing, really knowing, that you have no right, even if you think you love her or she loves you, you have no right to take her sexually, not without her full, informed consent.



TechnoBabe said…
I suppose the two are connected, people raping and those watching. I have such a hard time understanding how someone can stand around, watch, do nothing when someone is being violated. The fact that it was more than one young man participating in the rape is horror times ten. Difficult to even think of much less speak about. I think that the way you write in this post about objectification is the only way it can be understood if that is understanding. This is always a hard subject for me to address but I am able to do so now these many years later. When I was twelve I was held down by several men, beer poured down my throat, raped by one man who later went to prison. I cannot imagine that times ten.
Syd said…
Objectifying, lacking in empathy,anger, power are all things that come to mind. I wonder at all of this. It seems surreal.
Jack said…
There is no excuse for this. I don't get it, I just don't understand how one can blame poverty.
The Blue Morpho said…
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Lisa said…
As usual, a very thought provoking post. It seems there seems to be a somewhat new philosophy of "not ratting people out." I see it with kids. I see it in the adult world too. While the scenario you refer to goes beyond this since people are getting hurt, I still hear A LOT that people aren't willing to put themselves out there to "tell on someone else". They are worried the person they are turning in will retaliate. This attitude seems to be epidemic, and it saddens me. How did we get to this point? We don't want pulled in as witnesses. What if the person ends up getting of scot free? Are we then in danger? This is not my business, etc, etc....

"It's not nice to tattle" has gone way to far!

On another note (speaking of ratting people out) do you have any posts on having to call children's services on a client? I had to do that today. hard, hard hard. And I got many questions from the worker making the report that I was not prepared to answer?
"Why didn't you commit this person?" Etc etc... It does make the "messenger" second guess if it's the right thing to do. I didn't commit the client because she wasn't committable in my opinion. I did send her to the hospital, but she refused to stay, and the hospital staff cleared her to leave...But wow...all the stuff that goes with this. Ruining the rapport, questioning if I did the right thing? Worried about how this will effect the family? The worker was on her way to investigate the situation as she was talking to me on the phone. Not a position I want to be in again, anytime soon! Thanks for letting me vent.
porcini66 said…
I was 8. There was a "gang" of them. But they were not poverty stricken gang bangers out to hurt me, take from me, scar me. They were simple farm boys and a game of tag got out of line. Way out of line.

Some things have changed a lot since that hot summers' day so many decades ago. The surroundings are VERY different - inner city vs. rural paradise. The mentality, the motivation though...not so different somehow, I think. Sounds sick, doesn't it? Like I'm condoning what they did? Not really.

You see, I don't think that they even gave ME a second thought that day. Any more than they gave HER a second thought in Richmond. It isn't about the girl. It's an animalistic instinct that completely takes over, in my opinion. They get the "rut" mentality - get off or get tagged as "weak". Christ, they'd f*ck a telephone pole if it struggled and cried out, ya know? Sorry if the language offends - feel free to edit or delete if you wish.

I don't know. Much has changed. But then again, nothing has changed. I think that mentality has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, honestly. Violent. Animalistic. Wrong. But always there in some more than in others. And something that we, as women, have to teach our young ones to be wary of.

Cuz, like you say, it can happen ANYWHERE.
porcini66 said…
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lynette said…
i feel so sick thinking about this. i find the kids who watched and did nothing to be at least as disturbing as the ones who did. their ineffective presence removes any illusion of safety around people that this poor girl might have had, had the rape been in "private".

i cannot imagine how long her road to recovery, if ever, will be. i hope karma really does come back around.

my husband tends to dismiss my concerns about talking to our teenage daughter about personal safety, especially about personal safety around those you know and with whom you feel safe.

he doesn't know. he doesn't know what it is like to always feel vulnerable. i lost my virginity to a "friend" when i was very drunk in college -- i do not remember much of it at all. i was lucky that it was not violent. but i learned i cannot always know who my friends are. and i never drank that much ever again.

your post about this was excellent -- thank you for bringing forth this topic.
Isle Dance said…
Thanks for the bit on parents objectifying their kids that they abuse.

It is true about lacking empathy, in regards to those who rape, and the sickness of others watching.

A parent shoving something up inside their supposedly misbehaving child, while their sibling watches and laughs, has no empathy.

A boyfriend drugging and raping his (supposedly misbehaving) girlfriend, because she made friendships away at college, has no empathy.

A husband raping his (supposedly misbehaving) wife, because she was helping a sick friend who was dying, has no empathy.

At least in those moments...
Mary LA said…
I'm not sure I care about why men rape. I would just like to see rape stopped.
Lou said…
The message of right and wrong has gotten diluted. Now some things are OK "under certain circumstances"...I hear public figures making excuses all the time. Or twisting morality "because of this or that extenuating detail." I'm being simplistic, but doing the right thing doesn't seem to be it's own reward anymore.
Lisa Marie said…
I agree it has nothing to do with environmental factors and everything to do with human decency and empathy. The problem is, I don't think you can teach that. You can model it but the very nature of some human beings is not that way.

I wish they knew just how much actions like rape hurt not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
Anonymous said…
blaming poverty for such animal tendencies makes it seem like morals are for the educated and well to do. it is another form of 'other-izing' so those of us that don't fall under the poverty line can feel safe that such depravity simply does not exist among people like 'us'.
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Richmond's a few blocks away. It's a pretty bad neighborhood.

The motivations for rape differ case-by-case. We had another gang rape in Richmond about year ago. A lesbian woman was gang raped by a bunch of men who didn't like her sexual orientation. It was classified a hate crime.

Perhaps as a society we have to clarify our message. If our values were less confused, we wouldn't have as many bystanders in matters of rape - or injustices of other sorts.
Mark said…
Interesting and powerful article. So many people who are lost, distanced from their authentic being.
Glimmer said…
Lynette: You are right. Don't listen to your husband, talk to your daughter, nag her, give her examples, keep after her, don't let up. My mother did that. Honestly, she kept me safe in a situations that could have resulted in my harm. And she wasn't even there.

I remember when it started, the particular time. A red flag rose in my mind and in my body and waved frantically and did not stop. It was embedded in me by my mother and her warnings. An adult who was supposed to be safe was trying to get me off alone when I was young and it didn't make sense to me. He was very persistent, intense and became agitated when I refused.

I didn't even realize at the time who had instilled that steely resistance in me. It was Mother.

I am not a terrified person, hiding at home. In fact I was a journalist for years putting myself into so much harm's way professionally that I had to hide my work particulars from my mother (she really thought I was a typist). But there were many times her influence made a crucial difference. Because she equipped me with a caution I simply would not have had otherwise. You are on the right track.
lynette said…
Glimmer, thank you for the encouragement. My husband simply does not know.

I have been instilling bits of "wisdom" in my kids' ears starting with just before middle school, hoping that someday, they will hear my voice in their head when it matters.

My most recent was to always use a condom, always, always. I do not believe that my pre-adolescent son even knows what one is yet, but I believe he will remember to use one when he finds out!

I am glad your mother kept you safe. I hope I can do the same for my daughter.
Brendan said…
Its that mom mentality. The sad thing is that sending them boys to prison will only make them bigger rapist
blogbehave said…
I am very worried about a multitude of media influences: the internet - teens are but one click away from grotestque examples of objectification; music videos - one after another promote women as sexual objects; television - women trying to win at reality shows wearing skimpy bikini's while the men wear functional shorts and t-shirts.

Without education and change, I expect to hear about more of these dehuminizing violent acts against women and I'm very afraid for our future.
therapydoc said…
This is really an emotional topic, perhaps the worst of all travesties, one of those man against man things that does feel impossible to understand. And we’re thinking that one of six women fall victim to one kind of sexual assault or another. Rape is only one kind.

Speaking of rape as objectification isn’t the whole story. Obviously in a gang rape there’s so much group think that enters into the situation. Objectifying women, teachers, any type of authority figure, is how the group responds to some kind of problem, perhaps poverty, but more likely, to having no parental figure that symbolizes decency and dignity, that imparts respect for others. The “guys” in the gang become father figures. Following the lead of any one of the brothers is being a good son. Family is all that matters, you see, be it for better or worse.

When we see it this way it is almost comprehensible. But it gets worse, really, because for some it has absolutely nothing to do with a brotherhood or a father figure, it’s all about anger. The perpetrator is an angry person and the victim a victim of that nasty emotion. Why he’s angry doesn’t matter, she’s the scapegoat. His anger is displaced. She gets it. She is involved in some kind of role play, she has become someone unworthy of respect, bereft of dignity, not an object, but an unworthy person.

So which is worse? If women are objectified, then they make the perpetrator feel better, he’s not hurting anyone, she’s there for him, like a good meal, a warm coat. She exists for him. If she is an object of someone’s anger, she may symbolize real flesh and blood. She is someone, someone he feels deserves to be harmed, abused.

In both situations the perpetrator is clearly lacking empathy— he’s insensitive, selfish and cruel, and will defend his right to do what he did. Borderline, the wrong kind, unfortunately, and sociopathic.

Treat him? Not if I can help it.
Thank you for sharing. It breaks my heart, yours, too. I know. So senseless.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Ben said…
I'm not sure how to respond to the post or the comments, other than to try to put into words the terrible, terrible emotion I feel. I get ashamed for my half of the species, on a regular basis, but rape is among the worst. It alternately makes me want to cry and to throw up. Perhaps a little violence to the perpetrators thrown in.

I was raised in a church that believes strongly that to see an act is a participation in that act. "To bear witness" is a meaningful phrase. While I think the boys who did this are animals to be put down, I think much of the shock and anger I have is also directed at those who "witnessed" the event.

I'm typically coy & flippant in comments, but somehow... words are failing me.

my site:
my blog:
Ella said…
This rape occurred as I was beginning a survivor's group this fall. We could not really talk about it, so horrible.
You had asked on your blog about music, movies, etc. that included sexual exploitation, about that same time. Rape has always happened and always will - men will use violence to take what they want (see also: war). However, when music or movies make it seem accessible or common, and then parents and the community do not condemn this as unacceptable, what does a boy learn from this?
I asked my therapist "What have you told your son about not forcing himself on a girl?"
Harsh, but doubt he ever considered it as something he'd have to speak about DIRECTLY, not assume it was understood as a bad thing.
How do I teach my daughter to beware of men but then let her live in the world independently? I'd have to warn her that male teachers are not safe, your host father for study abroad is not safe. Sucks that these adult men are lacking basic morals.
Anonymous said…
OK, I am not really sure how to ask this, and I know that this is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. But, I think that people here have really good things to say.

I read the descriptions of the terrible thing that went on in Richmond, and the terrible experiences that other women (and men) have been through, and I just want to weep. And I agree that men that perpetrate these crimes are terrible human beings.

But, I guess what I need to know is can a man NOT be a horrible human being and rape someone?

I was married for 14 years to a man who would fit the definition of “controlling”. There was a post back there two years ago about Terri Hatcher that describes my marriage exactly. When I started to “bark back”, my (now) ex became very angry and unsettled until things degenerated to the point I had to leave. That, of course, is the official story.

But, the real reason I left suddenly, with the children, and with nothing but the clothing on my back, was because of something he did. During the period that things were really bad between us, I was really torn up emotionally and couldn’t sleep or eat well. One day, while the children were finally occupied, I lay down for a nap.

At some point while I was sleeping, he came in and woke me up to have sex with him. I curled up on my side and told him to go, that I was tired, and that I couldn’t be with him right now. I begged him to just lay with me for awhile, and if he could not do that, to leave me alone. He insisted, physically, becoming aggressive. At some point I realized that my choice was to become very agitated and start a huge fight, or just to let him finish so he would leave me alone. I was so drained an exhausted already, that the thought of the ensuing fight was more than I could bear. I let him. And, eventually he finished and left. Because I wasn’t physically interested, the act caused a little, well, damage. I got up afterward, and vomited in the bathroom. And then I went out to a friend, who found me hysterical, and drove me to a rape crisis center. I couldn’t go in because I didn’t think I was raped no matter how much she insisted otherwise. Eventually she had to drive me home.

When I got home, I found I couldn’t sleep because I knew that if I lay down he would be back. When I couldn’t remain awake anymore, I lay down again, and he was back within minutes. This time I was hysterical, screaming at him and crying and yelling at him to leave me alone. He looked at me like I had lost my mind, and left the room. When I composed myself and came out, he made casual conversation about the evening’s plans as if nothing had gone one between us. I knew I couldn’t live like this any more, constantly afraid that every nap would lead to a confrontation. So, that night I packed up the kids and left for good.

But, I am left with making sense of what went on. Was that a rape? He isn’t a bad man. I have to believe that if he had known, really known, how I felt he would have stopped. Plus, this is partly my fault. I could have screamed and yelled hit him and made him stop, instead I just laid there. What went on with me is not what happens to other women who are raped. And my ex is not a terrible person. I don’t know what to make of my experience.

P.S. I know I need therapy. But this is more about my general question. What is rape in the context of a long term sexual relationship? And can a man who is not generally a terrible person, rape someone?
Ella said…
@Anon mom who left with the kids:
You may be asking about a legal definition, which varies from state to state, of a rape between married people. But it sounds like in your heart and mind you felt raped, assaulted by your own husband, and when you told your friend she called it rape too. I read that you were raped, forced to have sex after you said No, he was angry, and later you vomited in reaction to this assault. That's the definition of rape for women - we know it and our women friends know it.

Please call a rape crisis hotline and get some support for yourself.
The national hotline will connect you with someone in your area - 1-800-656-4673.
You deserve to talk about this with someone who truly understands, someone who can help you heal.
good luck.
therapydoc said…
I could have sworn I commented on this last night, only to find it's not here.

I'll second Ella's thoughts.
But have to add:

I have a problem with the idea of "good people" versus "bad people" because most rape, acquaintance rape 90% of the time, is a consequence of faulty beliefs, rape myths about traditional sex roles and dominance in relationships. So it's less a question of good and bad, much more a case of misunderstanding, a failure to communicate pain. No healthy man wants to hurt his spouse.

But not every man is healthy. So if he's not, and he does want to hurt his spouse, or doesn't care about her feelings, is he bad?

Maybe yes, maybe no. If he's mentally ill and can't grasp her feelings even when she communicates them clearly, then it could be something treatable. He could change, maybe.

But we think that criminals are often deficient in empathy, too, not mentally ill, just bad. Happy when they hurt someone because they have issues, generally abuse in childhood. Getting beat, suffering neglect, makes a person angry. We don't use the word "mad" for nothing when we talk about anger.

I'm not judging. It's a tough call, should I stay or should I go. But if a woman is being hurt systematically, regularly, then she has to communicate it ASAP, and if it doesn't stop, then yes, she should go. Life's too short and too precious martyr it up. For what? The hope that it will change? And what if it doesn't? Why should it?
Ella said…
Good or Bad people? good or bad actions?
I teach my little children that "you made a bad choice" vs. you were bad. Still, much harder to say that about rape or murder.

Are there actions from which you cannot be redeemed? Does the Creator let people who rape children into the heavenly realm? I suppose the answer depends on your faith tradition, if get in based on actions or belief or both. They definitely get back into this world from prison.

A thought from a survivor in my group: Now that we are going to arraignment, I know his name and age. I can't just call him the Monster anymore.
TechnoBabe said…
Therapydoc, I have something to share with you on my blog today if you care to check it out.
marry said…
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April_optimist said…
Lack of empathy. It's an issue with rapists and it's an issue in any situation where we declare anyone else an "other." Our culture seems set up to declare people "others." And if they are "others" then they don't matter.

I get sick to my stomach reading stories like this.

I intellectually understand lack of empathy but I can't grasp it on a gut level. I couldn't as a child, watching adults and my brothers perpetrating abuse and I can't now. I know what led them to do what they did--the emotional hurts and fears they had--but I can't comprehend not feeling what the other person feels.
Anonymous said…
Thank you. I've called the hotline a few times and hung up, but one of these times I will let someone answer.

I just sometimes think I am making a big deal out of nothing, but then I end up crying myself to sleep again and feeling like some pathetic fool who just can't get a grip on herself.

The ex refused to get therapy at all, or even admit that anything was wrong, for months after I first confronted him. The rape was just the last straw. I was already barely hanging in there with my sanity intact.

I was already on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs at their maximum levels, and the need for both fell off dramatically once I finally got out. It was like waking up from an endless relentless dream. My mother described it as if she had "gotten her daughter back from the dead".
Anonymous said…
Better late than never................
Anonymous said…
I'm glad someone brought this up. Afterall, I've been poor all my life but you don't see me running around beating people up, stealing, or raping someone.
Again, it's not about poverty, it's about someone's mentality. It's about the way they think, what rewards they find.
I hate to say this, but if you dig deep in a lot of men and a surprising number of women you will find the patriarchial mindset is alive and well.
The objectification of women is something most of us just tolerate, and some participate in. I hope someday it can stop. Because until it does, stories like this will be so very familiar. But it doesn't make it any less disturbing.