[Trigger warning for sexual violence, classism, and racism.]
Following up on the Cleveland, Texas gang rape case (previous Shakesville posts about which are here, here, here, here, and here), the New York Times has published an extensive story with more details about the case.
I have various criticisms about the reporting, most notably the way that the story continues to be told in code: Most or all of the accused perpetrators are black; their victim is Latina; many or all of the investigators and prosecutors are white. This is not plainly stated. We are given hints and meant to infer as much, but evidently expected to believe it does not matter.
Just another irrelevant fact that can't be openly acknowledged. Ahem.
And, naturally, what gets inserted into the reporting is always as interesting as what gets excluded: I question, for example, the inclusion of the fact that the victim's father "sometimes slept during the afternoons" on a trampoline outside their "small house." Its relevance is indefensible; its purpose, of course, is clear.
There are two different, and inextricably linked, and frequently competing, threads to this story: One is the incident itself—the repeated sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl by as many as nineteen boys and men ranging in age from 14 to 27, over the course of several months, against a backdrop of poverty, disability, and racial divisions. The other is how that incident is being reported and received by the public, and the associated victim-blaming and rape apologia.
This story, more than most, underscores the inherent problem in writing about the rape culture: So much of the public discussion of sexual violence is so fubared that media deconstruction often eclipses discussion of surviving and preventing sexual violence. But challenging those narratives is itself a necessary part of prevention (and, for many of us, integral to our survival). Still. It's just one piece.
One piece that's incredibly hard to get past. And around and around we go.