Kids filming gang rape sign of depraved video age

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A homecoming dance at a California high school took a horrific turn last Saturday night when a 15-year-old student was gang-raped and beaten. For two-and-a-half hours.

My editors will tell me to write “allegedly” prior to gang-raped and beaten, but that’s a difficult word to use when police estimate at least 10 people participated in the attack and more than 20 stood back and enjoyed the show. The lengthy attack gave students ample time to invite others to the spectacle—to watch, participate, share a few laughs and record the event on cellphones.

Sadly, not one of them bothered to help the victim or call the police. At the end, the crowd walked away as if nothing had happened, leaving her unconscious and under a bench.

Perhaps this is the “rape-rape” that Whoopi Goldberg alluded to last month as she discussed director Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl. She didn’t know how to describe what happened, but told the audience she was quite sure that it wasn’t “rape-rape.” If anything is “rape-rape,” it has to be this.

So far, five young men have been arrested. One policeman summed up his—and the public’s—reaction by saying, “These suspects are monsters, and I don’t understand how this many people capable of such atrocious behaviour could be in one place at one time.”

As the most brutal teen crime to have surfaced in some time, it’s led to a great deal of introspection and conversation about what the hell is wrong with these kids.

Most point to “the bystander effect,” a sociological theory found in every first-year psyche text. It essentially states that people are less likely to get involved or assist someone in need when they are part of a larger group of people. On a practical note, that means, when victimized, it’s best to pray for one good Samaritan to come by—not 10.

The term stems from an infamous incident in 1964 New York, where apathetic neighbours watched as a woman named Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered. As an explanation, one witness simply said, “I didn’t want to be involved.”

In the best case scenario, we might believe that people shirk from involvement because they assume that someone else will take responsibility. But the crowd’s response in the California rape case demonstrates the absolute worst-case scenario—where people are so desensitized to violence that they don’t even care about the victimization of a fellow human being.

This might be explained by experts who say some children are so conditioned to violence in their own lives or homes that it’s accepted as normal behaviour. They don’t act because they’re desensitized to the pain and suffering of others.

It could also be that an overdose of violent video games and television has desensitized some people to the point where they no longer have an accurate perception of reality.

Several years ago, nurses at an American conference spoke about their most frightening experiences in the ER. One talked about a youth who came in with a gunshot and was absolutely astounded that he was in pain and that bullets hurt! After all, they didn’t seem to hurt the people in video games or on TV.

A commonly quoted statistic says the average American child watches 100,000 acts of televised violence, including 8,000 depictions of murder, by the time he/she finishes Grade 6. A study just released by the Parents Television Council suggests much of that violence is against women. Violent incidents against teen girls on television increased 400 per cent since 2004. Beatings were the most frequently depicted forms of violence, followed by violent threats, shooting, rape, stabbing and torture. The mind of a child is a sponge; that’s a lot for kids to soak up by the age of 11.

Studies on the mental health and well-being of Ontario children (OSDUS, 1991-2005) show that, for whatever reason, Canadian kids are similarly conditioned to violence. Statistics (on students from Grades 7 to 12) show that 12 per cent assaulted someone during the past year, while 10 per cent carried a weapon such as a knife or gun and six per cent participated in gang fighting. Do you think any of these nice Canadian kids would have stepped up to assist the California rape victim?

When it comes to rape, another culprit is society’s refusal to provide sexual boundaries for teens. In 1993, California police laid rape charges against members of a high school athletic clique called the Spur Posse. Members received a point each time they had sex with a different girl; the highest scorer had 66 points. A 17-year-old who was arrested passed the blame, saying, “They pass out condoms, teach sex education and pregnancy-this and pregnancy-that. But they don’t teach us any rules.”

All of these messages tell kids that violence and sex have no consequences. In the undeveloped and unconstrained minds of immature teens, it can become a lethal combination that leads straight to social depravity.

Latest posts by Susan Martinuk (see all)

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