Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Badly Done, New York Times

[Warning for triggers: rape, and infuriatingly offensive reporting of same]

God, it infuriates me that the New York Times, reporting about a case of gang rape in Cleveland, Texas, decided that it was appropriate to include this in the article: "Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."

Because we all know what it means, right, that she "dressed older than her age" and "would hang out with teenage boys?" New York Times, you must be aware that that's code for "she was asking for it?" And that by printing this statement without drawing any critical attention to it, you're suggesting it could be true?

Also, did I mention yet that we're talking about an eleven-year-old girl, which makes your perpetuation of the "she asked for it" myth even more reprehensible (though please note, it would be reprehensible regardless of her age)?

The "asking for it" suggestion is especially troublesome in an article that also contains the choice words: "The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?"

Drawn into? Seriously?

And if that weren't already offensive enough, this line, which, please note, is in reference to the mother of the victim: "'Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?' said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record."

How was this article allowed to print? Do we really need the New York Times perpetuating the myth that a rape victim is in any way responsible for being raped? And suggesting that her mother was somehow responsible? Eighteen young men forced an eleven-year-old girl to take her clothes off, threatened to beat her if she didn't, then raped her, then circulated footage, recorded on cell phone cameras, around school, and this is how the New York Times sees fit to report it? How did those poor boys ever get drawn in? Here's another actual line from the article: “'It’s just destroyed our community,' said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. 'These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.'”

I think my head is going to explode.

The only reason any of these statements would have been print-worthy, relevant, or appropriate is if this article were an exposé on a few people in this town who have really f***ed up ideas about who is responsible when eighteen young men have gang-raped an eleven-year-old girl, the rapists or the victim.

Badly done, New York Times.

ETA at 10:44pm: A lot of people on the internets are writing about this dreadful reporting job; here are a few links. I confess I haven't read them yet (sorry, leaving for Germany reeeeeeally soon) but they seem worth checking out: