"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Homecoming: The Tragedy at Richmond High

On Saturday night, October 24 at Richmond High School in California, many students were enjoying their annual homecoming dance and festivities. In a back alley at that same school, a fifteen year old girl was gang raped by as many as 10 men, while another 10 people watched.
When I first read this story, I felt physically ill. I know we are all faced with headlines that shock us every day, each more horrible than the last, it seems. But this story, and this girl have haunted me.

Her life will never be the same. I can’t even begin to think how you recover from something so traumatic and brutal. Rape in any form is horrific and devastating, and reading any story about an attack involving rape is painful. But I cannot wrap my mind around 20—TWENTY—people involved in an attack, and no one having a conscience. How does that happen? I understand the psychological theories—this group mentality takes over, but still. It seems so implausible to me that 20 people can all randomly come together and simultaneously lose their humanity.

At this point, it appears that the bystanders can’t be charged. The police do have suspects and there have been arrests. But my thoughts have never left this young girl. After the attack, the rapists left her critically injured and unconscious under a bench. She had to be airlifted via helicopter to a hospital where she spent several days, finally being released later in the week. I have felt such an urge to reach out to her somehow. I knew the authorities would protect her identity, and rightfully so, but I have thought of her every day since reading the initial article.

A friend of hers has spoken out, describing her coming to the dance in a purple sequined dress and faux diamond earrings. I remember those incredibly awkward years when nothing makes sense…and how hard it was to fit in and feel accepted. Her friend said that this girl struggled to fit in. I thought back to how much I didn’t like dances, and often didn’t attend- afraid of my own awkwardness, too self conscious to even pick a dress, fearing how I “wouldn’t” look instead of how I would. I can honestly say that I never, ever felt I was beautiful or even attractive throughout grade school and high school. I think so many of us go through that. And to think of this young girl, dressed up, going to this dance-an innocent thing we have all done at one time or another during our school years—and then to lose her youth, her innocence and far too much more—is almost too much to comprehend.

I am afraid to see the next news stories once the suspects and their lawyers get their sound bytes. Maybe I am mistaken, maybe I will be surprised. But I doubt it. I don’t want to read about her reputation, her upbringing, mistakes she made, if she was drinking, or what she was wearing. I don’t want to read about the rapists’ troubled upbringing, or how they were too drunk or high to know what they were doing, or that some were “pressured” by others to participate. I just don’t. There are NO excuses. NONE. Not for this. The age range of the rapists is suspected to be 15-21. But anyone of any age knows this is wrong. There is no gray area.

Her family has, with much grace I think, spoken out to the community, asking that the response to this tragedy not be more violence. They have asked that the community work to find ways that this will not happen again.

I so agree. Let’s do something—anything—so this kind of thing never happens again. But how do you even begin to know how to do that when the crime itself is impossible to understand?

As much as I don’t want anyone’s childhood to be used as an excuse for this, I do know that this is the only place to start preventing violence. It means raising children to be accepting, compassionate, kind, and with some sort of belief system rooted in decency. This is no small task. And I guess even when all that does happen, someone can grow up to be a criminal. But the odds are lessened.

It does take a village to raise a child. And that whole village, which includes any adult that touches that child’s life, has to be an example for that child to live by. Lofty aspirations I know.
My hope now is that this girl, even in her anonymity, can somehow be saved by a village. First, her immediate family and community, and then by those of us who only know her as the victim.

I didn’t know of a way to reach out, and today, found the solution online. If you feel so inclined, grab a card, a piece of paper, and send this young girl a note with your words, your kindness, your compassion.

Let her know her village is watching over her, even from afar.

The girl's school, Richmond High, is accepting cards and donations for her and her family.
Checks should be made out to the Richmond High Student Fund.
The checks and cards should be sent directly to the school:
1250 23rd St., Richmond, CA 94804-1011.


Anonymous,  November 3, 2009 at 5:43 AM  

Very well written post, Horrifying story..... I, too, have often questioned how people can lose their humanity in moments like this... Not sure they have the answers themselves. Thank you for the contact information..

Shelley Trbuhovich November 3, 2009 at 5:45 AM  

thank you so much for this post, kim. i woke to this horrendous news report the day after we (here in australia) were reeling from a very similar crime in a small beachside town. i wrote something on my facebook page related to it, cause i didn't know what to do but have been sickened to my stomach and had to 'say' something. to use an aussie expression, i've had a gutful of this cowardly, inhumane, hideous behaviour. as a mother of two small boys, i have always felt the honour (and weight) of raising good men - i now hold it as the highest job myself and their father can do, raise good, decent, respectful men. thanks for the address, i will definitely send something to this young woman.

NINA November 3, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

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Eva Gallant November 3, 2009 at 9:23 AM  

The total inhumanity of such acts is baffling. What have we become, and why?

Jennifer November 3, 2009 at 9:28 AM  

Collective energy is VERY powerful. You can see that in the lack of conscience we have seen within the "gang". You wonder...how does this piece get turned off in someone, and how do we turn it back on, the being part of humans. What if we all GANGED up for GOODNESS...what would happen then?

My heart is broken for this girl...for her recovery, for her existence. I pray she will take a path that is healing for her and manage to recognize her beauty is not entangled in the hate of these people. Her beauty still exists and has always existed. Oh I pray for her healing.

knitwit November 3, 2009 at 10:09 AM  

The one belief I hold close to my heart is that if we, as a society, focussed all our energy and resources on taking the very best care of our children, the millions we spend dealing with crime, teen pregnancy, homelessness (and the list goes on and on) would be significantly reduced, if not eradicated altogether, and we'd have a happier, more productive world. Thank you for another thought-provoking post.

Andi November 3, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

I don't watch the news so the only reason I stumbled across this story was because I was searching out news on the bridge closure. When I read it I was devastated. I am a very positive person who always tries to find the good in any given situation, but a story like this makes me question humanity. It's unspeakable, unimaginable, I cannot fathom what this poor girl will have to deal with for the rest of her life. I am avoiding follow-up reports, etc because I too don't want to have the girl ripped apart by the lawyers, its disgusting and there is absolutely no excuse for these acts. Thanks for providing the link to send her a note.

Pat November 3, 2009 at 10:29 AM  

I don't know what is more shocking - that she was raped by so many guys, or that so many people WATCHED. Was this some kind of GANG INITIATION?

I can't even fathom this whole scene. I, too, am sick to my stomach. How will this girl ever move on?

Loredana November 3, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

I am shocked, disgusted, appaled by all of this! I had not heard of this story. I can not believe it, 20 PEOPLE involved and NOT ONE had the decency to think 'this is wrong?' How do things like this happen? I know wars happen and gang fights happen where more than 20 people are involved in such hate crimes, but to be the 10 people that stand by just WATCHING?!?!?!? how?????? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE???!!!!???

Thank you for the information on reaching out to this girl. I can only hope that she can somehow overcome this and live the rest of her life normally. I know small things that happen to us and throw us off balance and let us view life so differently. I can't imagine something like this happeneing and having to move on from it. I pray for this girl...

Loredana November 3, 2009 at 10:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC November 3, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

Jr & Sr High School is hard. Esp in a big school. I was lucky and no one picked on me. I am so very sorry that she was.

I really see no reason for the people there to be able to continue .. they ought to be put away forever.

Anonymous,  November 3, 2009 at 12:32 PM  

My heart is gripped in terror for that child. I will send a card and pray for her healing that only God can do.

Coralee November 3, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

I too wrote about this in my blog today. ..same reaction. . .sickened. ..I have no answers. .only prayers.

caroldiane November 3, 2009 at 6:33 PM  

As a wife, a mother of a son and the grandmother of a grandson, I can only say that the shift we want to occur will only happen when we raise our boys to be men who care for women. In a society where 'belonging' is more important than standing up for what you know is right, young men without the experience of being loved for who they are will go along with such horrible acts. We can only expect them to be peaceful if they knew love and caring in their upbringing. This is a tragedy - for that young woman and for the community. Thank you for your thoughtful blog.

Art November 4, 2009 at 11:22 PM  

When I was a child, the thing that kept me awake at night was a fear of monsters from outer space. (I had no real worries as a child.) Every day now, I see that the world is full of real monsters much worse than anything I ever imagined.

lydia eve November 5, 2009 at 7:41 AM  

This story still makes me shudder on the inside... thank you for the link to send cards! I'm with you--there are no excuses for this. :(

Vartikaz November 6, 2009 at 3:38 AM  

Sometimes its difficult to understand if we live in civilized times.

Heather November 8, 2009 at 6:51 PM  

I want to thank you so much for sharing this story--I am appalled that it didn't receive more coverage nationally. What an absolute horror for that poor young girl...


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