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…….