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Rape in a Schoolyard

A place where public sex is too common to be noticed.

By Petrarch  |  November 9, 2009

The London Telegraph brings us a report that is so profoundly disturbing in so many ways as to be worthy of extra-careful consideration.

A 15-year-old girl was gang raped by up to 10 teenagers outside a California high school homecoming dance as others laughed and took photographs. In a crime that has shocked America up to two dozen passers-by were said to have seen the crime happening and failed to report it as the girl was subjected to an ordeal lasting two-and-a-half hours... The crime was only discovered when a woman at a nearby party telephoned police to say that two of the suspects were bragging about their role in the attack, which was still going on.

The responses of shock from all corners are entirely natural and entirely predictable.  How could any human beings, not yet adults, be so depraved?  How could anyone on encountering a rape in progress, respond by watching it as a performance, photographing it, or even joining in line to take a turn?  What sort of monsters lurk in these schools?

These are legitimate questions, but they are very much the wrong questions.

Consider what the passers-by saw.  Not a rape - well, of course it was a rape, but would that necessarily be obvious?  No, they saw a group of schoolmates enjoying some slut on a park bench.

It was not so long ago that anyone coming upon a couple having sex in public - to say nothing of a group engaging in an apparent orgy - would immediately respond with disgust and call the police, rape or no rape.  The reaction of this bunch of teens was the exact opposite - the situation was so blase, so devoid of any particular surprise, as to be nothing more than a mildly-diverting addition to the evening's entertainment.  Much like passing by the tip jar of a street musician: walk on; listen for a few minutes; stay for a while; put something in the tip jar, or not; but either way, it's not worthy of note.

The true question is not just one of rape, as repugnant and evil as that horrendous crime is.  The question is: what sort of day-to-day lives must these kids lead for their reaction of utter unconcern even to be possible?  Is random, public, group sex so common in their midst and so ordinary as to be unworthy of remark?

We can't help but think of another recent story, that of a false rape accusation at Hofstra University.

The woman had originally told police that she had been dancing with Ortiz at an on-campus party just before 3 a.m. when he grabbed her cell phone from her belt and went outside.

The woman told police she followed Ortiz to a dormitory hallway, where she was confronted by Felipe. The woman said the two men forced her into a men's room toilet stall, tied her up and raped her, police said. She said later the three other men entered the bathroom and raped her, too, police said.

The forensic evidence supported her tale.  She had, indeed, had sex with multiple men; she had, indeed, been tied up over the men's john.  For any reasonable jury, that would be proof enough of a felony; what other interpretation could there be for these facts?

Unfortunately for the accuser, one of the male participants had taken a prudent precaution that may have saved his life: He'd filmed the entire encounter on his cellphone.  Replaying the record of this indescribable debauchery proved conclusively that the event was fully consensual.

"The alleged victim of the sexual assault admitted that the encounter that took place early Sunday morning was consensual," Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.

What sort of - the term "lady" hardly seems appropriate here - would consent to such a degrading encounter?  Yet one did.  Perhaps she had enough remaining conscience to feel shame afterwards, but rather than mend her ways, she compounded her wickedness by falsely accusing her erstwhile lovers of one of the foulest crimes possible.

If you or I had walked into that men's room, we'd surely have called the police instantly, who in turn would have arrived with guns drawn.  Yet we'd all have been completely wrong in our conclusions.

The passers-by at the high school came to an equally wrong, though opposite conclusion.  Yet is it possible that, given what they'd previously seen and experienced, that conclusion was not unreasonable?

For all our modern enlightened habit of ridiculing those old prudes the Puritans and Victorians, there is something to be said for a society that keeps all forms of sex firmly out of public view and highly regulated for anyone of decent society: It makes mistakes of this nature quite impossible.

The only participants in a Victorian orgy would have been professional prostitutes and paying customers cavorting consensually in a facility well-known for the purpose.  The only occasion for public sex would, indeed, have been a felonious assault deserving of a full police investigation.

Today, who can know?  How can you tell them apart without getting involved yourself - and with what uncertain and potentially dire consequences?

The students at Richmond High School, many of them, are indeed monsters, but they are that way because we have made them so - by steeping them in a society in which there is no such thing as unthinkable debauchery and no such concept as evil.

They felt good at the moment; that's all they knew, and that's all they had been taught to care about.  It's the old slogan, "If it feels good, do it!" writ large.

And that fact, far more evil and dangerous even than one single evil rape, is the true horror of this story.  There will always be rapists, just as there will always be murderers, but when passers-by no longer find anything noteworthy about such an evil crime, the end is nigh.