This week in victim-blaming: 11-year-old gang-rape survivor as seductive “spider”

Two years ago, an 11-year-old Cleveland, Texas girl was gang-raped by 20 young men. The crime was recorded on cellphones and circulated amongst students at the local school before finally coming to the attention of the police. And since then plenty of allies have stepped forward to rally around the “real victims”: the rapists.

First the New York Times ran an article focused on the terrible strain the investigation had on the community. Forget about the survivor’s trauma: “The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core” and, as one concerned neighbor pointed out, “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.” The paper was also criticized for its focus on the young girl’s appearance and friends. Author James C. McKinley, Jr. wrote, based on local gossip, that “she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground.”

Now defense attorney Steve Taylor thinks that the 11-year-old rape victim, not her assailants, should be punished. As detailed in a Tuesday Chronicle article:

Former Cleveland Police Department Sgt. Chad Langdon, who was the lead investigator on the case, also testified that an 11-year-old – due to her emotional immaturity – legally cannot give consent for a sexual encounter.

Taylor questioned why the underage girl had not been charged with anything for choosing to violate that rule, indicating that she was “the reason” that the encounters happened.

“Like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?’ ” Taylor asked.

Luckily Taylor isn’t representative of the Texas court system at large. Langdon called the defense attorney out on his rape apologia, replying “I wouldn’t call her a spider. I’d say she’s just an 11-year-old girl.” Given what we know about Texas prisons (and, well, prisons in general) it’s hard to cheer for a criminal prosecutor. But I have to hope that the court sees through this victim-blaming BS.

Taylor and his fellow champions of rape culture need to know that–however many have rushed forward to protect the poor, poor gang-rapists–reason, morality, and the law are not on their side.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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