In the Blog

Rape culture, not specific ethnicities, cultivates shame

July 26th, 2009     by Teresa Chun-Wen Cheng     Comments

An eight year-old Liberian refugee girl was raped by a group of four boys in Arizona, just a little under two weeks ago. According to the Phoenix police, the four boys, ages nine to 14, lured the girl with chewing gum into a shed by a vacant apartment unit, where they restrained her and took turns sexually assaulting her. Charges have been filed against the boys, with the oldest boy being tried as an adult.

Oddly, the media and public outcry isn’t around the actual crime and the socio-economic factors that may have contributed to the horrific incident. Instead, what many are outraged about is how the girl’s family has disowned her for the shame she has brought onto the family. There is no doubt that the incident was awful and demands justice and healing for the girl, but what is going on here?! As expected, there are many racist comments on the “backwardness” of “these people” and how they need to be reminded that the United States is a “civilized” society. Let’s try to remember that cultivation of shame around rape also exists in our own backyards. How many times have girls and women been told that they shouldn’t have worn that outfit or that they shouldn’t have looked at that person that way? How many times have girls and women been told they were lying about their assaults? All of this suggest that rape is at the fault of the victims and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Shame around rape is not specific to ethnicities. The end.

Media networks, the Phoenix police and child welfare organizations have received many phone calls and emails from concerned citizens who “want to help.” Many want to help by giving money and others…want to adopt. The idea of a young girl who has recently undergone serious trauma, coupled with the fact that she was forced out of her homeland due to violence, being snatched up by some good Samaritans is horrifying. Need I remind these do-gooders that adoption might not be in the best interest of the young refugee girl? Let us not forget the plethora of problems with adoption, specifically transnationally and transracially. Clearly, at this point, the girl needs to be temporarily looked after and cared for, but that’s a different story.

We know nothing about the relationships within the girl’s family. Neither do we know the factors that contributed to the family disowning her. What I do know is that the general public does not take into consideration the nuances behind such an incident and are very quick to jump to racist, “well-intentioned” conclusions.

Tags: body politics, race and racism

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