Strong Trigger Warning
This is about as shameful, horrifying and unacceptable as things come. In April, six adult men allegedly took turns raping a 15-year-old girl. She went to an apartment with one of the men, who she knew, only to have him demand “sex” with her. When she refused, he allegedly pulled a gun on her, and the men then proceeded to orally and vaginally rape her. Additionally, the men took photographs and video of the assault. Police are said to have recovered such video and photographs from the crime scene. And the two suspects who were taken into custody also have apparently confessed to “having sex” with the girl. One man even allegedly said that he saw the girl crying, and stopped his oral rape of her only at that point.
The assault itself is about as awful as they come. But leave it to law enforcement to find a way to make the situation even worse, and to devalue this girl’s right to bodily autonomy and safety even further. The Boward State Attorney’s Office has decided to not file charges against James Hunte and Ryan Johnson, the two men who allegedly confessed to engaging in a “sex act” with the 15-year-old.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office has decided not to file criminal charges against two of the men accused of participating in the rape of a 15-year-old girl.
The state attorney’s office said the victim in the case has been uncooperative.
James Hunte and Ryan Johnson will not face charges, even though Plantation Police reports indicated that both men admitted receiving a sex act from the girl.
Prosecutors say they are still investigating two other men accused of participating in the attack.
[. . .]
According to a police report, Ryan Johnson told detectives he thought the girl was “18-19 years of age.” Johnson also told police during the sex act “he noticed the victim crying and discontinued receiving oral sex.”
Confessions, and video evidence. And still, these men will walk free.
What we have here is not only a case of rape apologism, and the minimizing and dismissal of sexual violence, including by those who are supposed to — hell, who are paid to — take it most seriously. We also have yet another “what does it take?” scenario. Video evidence, photographs, and confessions, at the very least to sexual contact with an underage girl, and still, no willingness to prosecute.
And we also have still another case of victim-blaming — they’re not going to prosecute, they claim, because of her, and her alleged lack of cooperation. No regard for the fact that victims, especially young victims, are quite often rightfully scared. No regard for the fact that she may be lacking support, and may desperately be in need of counseling and may not currently have the means to receive it. No regard for why she may be “uncooperative,” whatever exactly that means. And, perhaps still even more egregiously, no regard for the fact that even if she were unwilling to testify in court that she was forced at gunpoint, they still have evidence to, at the very least, prove statutory rape and child pornography charges, and are apparently not perusing these either.
And we have, as Renee shows in her post on the subject at Womanist Musings, yet another case of the lives, rights and humanity of black women and girls being erased and denied. We’re not just dealing with rape apologism; we’re dealing with an intersection of rape apologism and racism. Of course, we live in a world where rape apologism shifts and virtually any victim can be made “unrapeable.” But we’re also living in a world where black women and girls are particularly construed as hyper-sexual, permanently sexually available, and less valuable both as women and as human beings. And that makes sexual violence committed against them particularly easy for our society to ignore and toss aside.
We saw virtually the same exact scenario unfold in the R. Kelly trial, with the only difference being that he was prosecuted and acquitted, rather than not charged at all. It was decided that even video evidence of the rape of an underage girl of color was not enough to justify putting a man in jail. Seemingly, the act of violence was determined to just plain not count.
Misogyny and racism. Time and time again we see them play out, and often most repulsively so when the two work in conjunction. I don’t know what else to say. And I don’t know how to make it stop. It’s not going to stop until all women are valued as people with rights, and until people of color are valued as people with rights, and until those who bear both gender and racial oppression are also valued. Until our society accepts the fact, which is outrageously simple and obvious and yet has been denied for centuries, that women of color are human, I don’t know if and how it’s going to stop.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Gina at What About Our Daughters has just updated with the information that the victim in this case is actually a white girl. Of course, that doesn’t change the extreme and disgusting act of rape apologism and dismissal taking place here. And it doesn’t change the fact that black women and girls are especially undervalued in our culture and especially subjected to these kinds of rape apologist arguments — this specific aspect, however, just is not present in the particular case discussed up above. Thanks to Sam for the update in the comments.