Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sometimes Justice is Hard to Calculate.....

Last week in Phoenix, an eight year old girl was brutally gang raped. The perpetrators had no elaborate scheme or meticulous cover up. No real plan. They simply decided one day to lure their little neighbor into a shed by offering her gum, hold her down and rape her for 10-15 minutes. They were immediately arrested at the scene of the crime, after another neighbor heard hysterical screaming and called the police.

The “gang” consisted of young boys, ages 9. 10, 13, and 14.

The victim and the perpetrators were all Liberian refugees. You can read the full story here.

After learning that their innocent daughter had been sexually assaulted, her family did the unthinkable. They disowned her. Instead of outrage at the perpetrators or a fierce desire to see justice done, the family embraced a cultural relic still present in many African and Middle Eastern countries that pronounces female rape victims Guilty, responsible for the violence they were powerless to fend off or flee from.

The father told a case worker and a policemen in her presence to “take her,” that he “didn’t want her back.” His daughter, bloodied, bruised, and severely traumatized had become, however implausible to most Americans, a symbol of cultural shame. Thankfully, the Phoenix Police Department is committed to seeking justice for this little girl, even while her family chooses to blame her.

The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, involved herself personally upon hearing of the crime. She chided the girl’s family, beseeched them to seek counseling, and assured the world that Liberia is moving in a cultural direction that values women and decries sexual assault. She then asserted that the perpetrators, the young boys, have to pay the penalty, but we also want to make sure that they are counseled ... that they will have an opportunity to change and become useful citizens, not only in the United States but when they return home."

The 14 year old boy is being charged as an adult. The 9, 10 and 13 year olds are being charged as juveniles. Being charged as an adult means that the sentence will be harsher, longer, and the record permanent.

Delivering justice seems fairly straightforward at first glance. The perpetrators should pay. They should absolutely pay for their crimes. They should be harshly sentenced and given the maximum penalty. The victim was only 8 years old, after all. Then, one remembers something crucial and even more horrific; They are only little boys. Boys only a few years older than my own son. Boys, refugees, that were likely exposed to rape and sexual violence before arriving in the United States. It is highly likely that their childhoods were not filled with Sponge Bob, Toys R Us, good parenting, and sound moral teaching. As refugees, it is likely that these boys all but raised themselves. It is entirely possible that the boys were recruited as Liberian rebel soldiers.

These little boys, the perpetrators, are victims in their own rite. It is easy to imagine that the boys are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most refugees could be easily diagnosed with PTSD.

So, what’s a justice system to do? Should the goal be punishment, or rehabilitation? Sentencing or counseling? A combination of both?

Obviously, the little girl needs counseling and a family that will love her and introduce her to the Creator who restores all things broken. She has been wounded physically and emotionally in the most horrific way possible. I basically think she should come live with me. In all honesty, I’ve been having dreams about telling this little girl how valuable she is, how perfect, how pure. I OBVIOUSLY believe in adoption. More to follow on that….

Don’t these boys need the same thing? Wouldn’t the best thing be for their innocence to be restored? Shouldn't some one inform them of how valuable they are to the Creator?

The more important and pressing question is this: What is the Church to do? With the 8 year old rape victim, the little boy perpetrators, and Injustice everywhere?

I know this. Churches are EVERYWHERE. How does the Church mobilize to prevent this tragic story from enfolding in the FIRST PLACE?

I’m not offering any answers. Not just yet.

I’m extremely curious about what YOU have to say…….


  1. I am in tears...tragic on all levels..I have no answers, just that there is definately more than one victim in this story. Those boys need to learn that what they did was wrong, but they also deserve a chance to see life free from abuse

  2. Jodie, I once had an 8-year-old boy in my office because he had molested a cousin. It was truly heartbreaking, and I don't think I have ever had so much sympathy for a child. When a pre-pubescent child becomes a perpetrator, I think it is ALWAYS a re-enactment of their own trauma, and brings in yet another victim. I agree, I think they all need a lot of help. I want to hear more of your thoughts!

  3. I think about what you are writing often. When I tell people I investigate child abuse for CPS, there is USUALLY some sort of "I don't know how you do it" AND "those poor kids" AND "we should lock those parents up and throw away the key." But when I am standing in front of these parents, that isn't what I am feeling. I am feeling exactly what you are writing about... that they were also victims. Of their own abuses as children, but also victims of larger society for not doing a good enough job. At what point does the victim become the perp? It is more complicated than it appears at first glance. All very sad stuff.

    I'm also interested in hearing more of your thoughts.


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  5. Sorry... deleted post mine... too many typos.

    Your blog also reminds me of this story from this past weekend. A mother kills her three week old and the details of how this occurred are pretty horrific. But it speaks to "justice." This mother was absolutely NUTS. There is no way one could ever harm a child in this manner without having a complete psychotic break. Of course there are consequences. But I have a lot of compassion for this very very sick woman, as well as the baby, the extended family members who were trying to help, and the police who had to witness this crime scene. There is nothing good from this story. Heartbreaking.


  6. When I first read this story and several blog posts about it, I was in tears. I feel so angry about what this little girl endured, and then to have her father, her family, disown her? I could cry again.

    It makes me even more afraid because I have a five year old son, and I can't imagine him capable of such a crime. Not now, nor at 9 years old.

    It definitely makes me value the importance of educating my son about how to treat others with respect and dignity.

    I've also learned a ton about cultural differences.

    Gosh. So many thoughts are swirling through my head.

  7. I just blogged about how happy I was that I found my front pack. My 2 kids are sleeping and I am packing for a trip. What a charmed life I lead. And then I read your blog post. What an unbelievable painful story. My first thought were of anger and as I read my heart did break for the boys too.

  8. Jodie you're so spot-on . . . my heart breaks for these children. Howie and I were just speechless when this story broke, and you've given us more to chew on. Our hearts are bent toward adoption too . . . but I'd like to take about a million of them, and I fear our house would get cramped. I'm chewing on it, and anxious to hear what else you have to say.


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