Rape in a Schoolyard

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

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.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Agreed. Fantastic article.
November 9, 2009 8:08 AM
The nature of evil is such that it brooks no dissent.. and shields its appearance in a mantle of light: if Mr Patrarch feels the end is nigh, perhaps he might lead the way into our doom.
That is not justification for denouncing the behaviour of consenting adults, and good reason to abandon victim-less "crimes" such as prostitution and other value-for-value transactions, such as black market purchases and antiquated drug laws.
Perhaps on might hold the parents to blame, as many tried to do with the Harris/Klebold parents from Columbine..
and perhaps one might blame society in general, not individuals, since preaching from any pulpit is sacrosanct and no one person is to blame for the deceit inherent in the wisdom of the pundits who espy corruption.
Hate is a powerful motivator of more hate, and the violence ensuing.. is this what you advocate?

November 9, 2009 8:13 AM
hear, haer
November 9, 2009 8:15 AM
Yes, I freely admit it: I hate rape, and I hate rapists. I believe rapists should be "hanged by the neck until dead" as the old saying goes.

You, irvn?

"The nature of evil is such that it brooks no dissent.". Exactly so - if you don't hate evil, you ARE evil. And if rape isn't evil I don't know what is.
November 9, 2009 8:21 AM
Rape is evil.. and so confronting it is paramount, even to the point of risking one's safety: that's why God gave us necks, to stick 'em out- my point is that no one other than the rapist is to blame, especially the victim.
Tori Amos wrote a great song about dealing with such a situation...on her first album «Crucify» (the one with "Winter")
November 9, 2009 8:26 AM
@ irvn

There's nothing wrong with hate. It's GOOD to hate things once in awhile. Hating debauchery and public lewdness is appropriate, particular when one witnesses what it has done to our culture (insert reference to this article).

And if you read the article again (perhaps more slowly), you might find that the author was not advocating banning consensual sex. He was advocating a modest, temperate culture.

It takes an odd person to find fault with this article, given the obviousness of its conclusion.
November 9, 2009 8:34 AM
"my point is that no one other than the rapist is to blame"

A bunch of students stand around watching a horrible, wicked act (not helping the poor girl or calling the police) and you say that NO ONE OTHER THAN THE RAPIST is to blame?!?

You're a damned fool.
November 9, 2009 8:36 AM
The author never blamed the girl. read the story again
November 9, 2009 8:37 AM
@irvn: I believe the purpose of the article is not directly to attack consensual sexual acts but rather to note the inherent danger. Such public consensual acts leads to the inability for any person to know if any given sexual act is consensual or rape.

The article in The London Telegraph seems to imply that the issue is the indifference of the people who saw the crime. Petrarch, I believe, is arguing that it is not that people didn't care that rape was occurring. Rather that those people who saw it did not know that a rape was occurring. They simply saw, as he put it, "a group of schoolmates enjoying some slut on a park bench."
November 9, 2009 8:43 AM
"And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men."
November 9, 2009 9:26 AM
Boondock Saints, great movie. I would agree with that statement, the indifference of 'good men' is indeed far more dangerous than evil men. When it is no longer possible to tell good from evil however what is society to do?
November 10, 2009 8:00 AM
It's always possible to discern good from evil. When you think you can't, it's because you've tried to redefine one form of evil as not being evil, and then you have difficulty distinguishing it from "real" evil.

As with both these cases - there was indisputable, immediately obvious evil going on. Whether it was the evil of rape or the evil of a public orgy, it was still evil - and the fact that passers-by couldn't necessarily immediately discern which of the two it was, shouldn't have been relevant. It was only relevant because they've been trained that the evil of extreme promiscuity and open sexuality is, in fact, natural and normal.
November 10, 2009 8:15 AM
IN prison one learns quickly not to to mess with another convict's business.. whether it is sodomy or black market transactions, to do so would risk one's own safety. As most are gang members- and this applies to minimum security facilities as well- there is any uneasy peace which only takes someone doin' sumptin' stoopid to ignite trouble.
So you feel we can safely blame "society" for the "evil of extreme promiscuity and open sexuality", whcih you claim is the children have "been trained...{to consider as], in fact, natural and normal" ?
I guess I am no master of psychology here.. so perhaps this is not a good vs. evil but a master manipulator exhorting his followers?

November 10, 2009 10:22 AM
The brave do what is right despite ramifications. If everyone were brave there would be no need for bravery for those who would do ill would know that they were doomed for failure.

Would I be willing to risk my life to prevent harm being done to another? I do not know. I hope I would. It is however impossible to know what I, you, or any given person would do when facing evil.

I must however take exception to something Petrarch said, at least given the context of a politically minded web site. While I may find the idea of free love and public orgies wrong, I do not believe it is my right, nor any other persons right to pronounce any persons action as evil until and unless they infringe upon another person's rights.
November 10, 2009 2:21 PM
jonyfries, you've put your finger on a major root cause of many of our long-running national disagreements.

In a free country, you're right that we should not have the right to infringe other people's rights until they infringe on our own. I believe that the government ought to "stay out of the bedroom" and should not regulate the PRIVATE conduct of consenting adults.

However, I don't believe that freedom requires us to permit behavior of any sort in the public sphere. There is nothing wrong with requiring public decency and good order. You can drive your car on the left side of your own driveway if you like, but if you want to drive on the public highway you'd better stay to the right. Similarly, if you want to sponsor an orgy in your home go right ahead, but a public park is not the appropriate place nor should it be.

Later this week, we have an upcoming article which may carry this discussion further.
November 10, 2009 3:23 PM
I do not disagree with anything that you just said Petrarch, my issue is specifically with use of the word 'evil.' While a religious organization or an individual may believe something to be evil I do not believe that kind of rhetoric is appropriate in a political discussion.

I could craft strong arguments both for free love up to and including public orgies as a cultural norm. I could also craft strong arguments for restricting all sexual behavior entirely to the marriage bed. While I may believe personally or religiously that a behavior is evil I do not believe that it is, as stated before, appropriate rhetoric in a political context.
November 10, 2009 8:06 PM
I understand your point, jonyfries, it is a very common position these days. However, I must respectfully disagree.

We're getting deep into political philosophy here, but I believe that shared cultural morality forms the entire foundation for representative government. Insofar as we no longer have a shared sense of morality, even one honored in the breach, democracy starts to break down and the end result can only be authoritarianism or anarchy. The Founding Fathers felt the same way; as John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

So a discussion of evil is not only appropriate in a political context, but indeed essential if politics is to make any sense in the real world.
November 10, 2009 9:46 PM
I agree strongly that a moral people are needed for any society to function and that does need to be a shared sense of morality. However, many societies have prospered with very different moral guides than America has ever had in the past.

Romans and Greeks were far from sexually limited. The Chinese subjugated women far beyond anything we have ever seen in America or any where in the western world. Slavery has until recently (historically speaking) been accepted the world over.

How then do we define evil? To use that word is to state that an action or behavior is under all circumstances highly destructive to an individual or group and could therefore never be acceptable to any society.

It is important for societies to have a shared value system. Some level of moral discord is safe and indeed beneficial. Too much moral discord is always destructive. It is therefore important for governments to enforce a limited degree of moral constraints to ensure relative harmony in society.

However, to say something is 'wrong' is entirely different. I would agree that public orgies are wrong and would be willing to state that in a political context. I would also agree that city governments should outlaw such behavior. To say that they are evil however steps beyond what I believe is the proper role of any governmental institution and therefore beyond the realm of what should be discussed as a matter of politics.
November 10, 2009 10:11 PM
I think that we actually mostly agree in principle; it's just the specifics of practice where we differ. I suspect it's because I, at least, view the harm done by (for example) public orgies to be much greater than "what meets the eye": the knock-on effects to public morality and general decay are vastly larger than what you might think.

You are quite right that societies can be stable with very different moral views. However, certain things - and widespread, open sexual promiscuity is most definitely one of them - invariably lead to societal collapse, and have done so in many different contexts throughout history. Why might this be? That can be argued, but the record of history can't be.

Therefore, based on the record of history - and, yes, religious views too - I place generally accepted sexual promiscuity and public orgies in that category of things which are not merely wrong, but evil, thus corrosive to the body politic, and a fit subject of government sanction.
November 10, 2009 10:43 PM
I agree that most of our disagreement is rhetorical instead of political. It is the world 'evil' that I am hung up on specifically not on the political action that you seem to be advocating.

I am by no means well versed in the sexual history of various societies. I am therefore unable to comment intelligently on the effects of a society that encourages sexual liberties.

I would however agree that when any society becomes self indulgent, which sexual promiscuity is usually a sign of, it tends to result in the end of the society. I however would say that this has less to do with the sexual activities themselves but rather the self indulgent behavior generally that it reflects.
November 10, 2009 10:55 PM
I quote Mr Petrarch who quotes John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
How does one feel about the last administration's disregard of the Bill of Rights in kidnapping foreign nationals, refusing them bail, not charging them with a crime, let alone a speedy trial, and yet they remain incarcerated?
There is evil in the world, and it comes form individuals such as Bush/Cheney who think they are above the law, a law they swore to not only abide by, but to protect...
that is Evil..

November 11, 2009 12:15 AM
Excellent question, irvn, and the answer is short and sweet: There was no Constitutional violation because foreign nationals HAVE NO Constitutional rights. The Bill of Rights does not apply to them.

We've explored this subject quite extensively. If you think the prisoners at Guantanamo have any Constitutional rights at all, you've been lied to, plain and simple.



I will grant that whisking away Jose Padilla to a military brig was wrong - HE was a U.S. citizen with Constitutional rights. He should have been tried for treason of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" in a court of law, found guilty, and executed.
November 11, 2009 7:32 AM
As Petrarch non-citizens do not have Constitutional rights. However, it is important to note that just because something is legal does not mean it is good.

The situation referred to is not ideal, but what do we charge enemy combatants with? There is no law that we can enforce against a foreign national taking up arms on his native soil against us.

The nation in which he is taking up arms may be able to charge him, but there is no law that makes it illegal to engage in acts of war against us. If the person engaged in terrorist activities against civilian populations there may be international laws that apply but for the rank and file warrior that goes out to fight the Americans what can we charge them with?

As with standard POWs we can't just let them go; we would not have released German soldiers in the middle of either of the World Wars. So what then is the answer but to lock them up indefinitely? It is not a good answer, but it may well be the best answer.
November 11, 2009 9:49 AM
"So what then is the answer but to lock them up indefinitely? It is not a good answer, but it may well be the best answer."

November 11, 2009 12:31 PM
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