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15-Year-Old Girl Gang-Raped at Homecoming While Others Cheer: How Does This Happen?

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I wish I could say this was an unimaginable crime. But it’s real.

Five – out of as many as 10 – young men between the ages of 15 and 19 could appear in a Richmond, Calif. court as early as today after allegedly gang-raping a 15-year-old girl at a homecoming dance for more than two hours last weekend. The victim was apparently beaten, robbed and raped in a secluded area while the dance went on nearby.

That’s bad enough. This young girl’s life has been hijacked, violated and changed forever because of the violent, sick actions of a group of boys. But the story doesn’t stop there. Apparently as many as 20 other students stood by, watched, cheered and even took pictures as the girl was raped.

Watched. Cheered. Took pictures.

As a 15-year-old girl was beaten and raped.

No one called for help.

How does this happen? How can it be that no one in the crowd felt uncomfortable witnessing such brutality? How can it be that no one slipped away to find a teacher, tell a security guard, or call 911?

The boys – I hesitate to call them men, even though they are so far being charged as adults – will be dealt with. Five are in custody, more are being investigated, and authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of any of the assailants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. If convicted, some could spend life in prison. That might be enough time for them to regret their actions.

But the bystanders cannot be held responsible. In California it’s a crime to not report a sex crime happening to a child 14 and younger, but this victim is 15. There’s no recourse. A law officer interviewed by ABC News Wednesday night was disgusted that there was nothing that could be done to those who didn’t help.

Police are familiar with the behavior called “mob mentality,” when a group of people act together without any planning. It’s like animals acting in a herd – they will follow the leader whether the leader jumps off a cliff or goes home to the barn. Mob mentality is often cited in instances such instances as the panic to get out of a burning building, riots, looting during a power outage or trampling when a crowd gets out of control.

“The mob mentality that took place for two and a half hours that allowed these students, these young adults, to behave this way," said Richmond police lieutenant Mark Gagan. "None of them were thinking or acting individually, it was a mob that took over."

And as for the bystanders? Attribute it to “the bystander effect,” which refers to a classic study in which researchers found that the more witnesses there are, the less likely any individual is to take action. The presence of others spreads the responsibility for action out among the crowd, lessening the effect on any single person. And the presence of the crowd itself encourages people to “go along” with what the majority is doing. It was particularly heinous in this case. In fact, one officer told ABC News that onlookers might fear that they themselves would become victims if they separated themselves from the group to seek help.

Gagan said authorities finally learned about the crime from a young woman who had heard two men bragging about it. Police later found the victim semiconscious and naked from the waist down under a picnic table about an hour after the dance ended. She is still in the hospital.

What do you think? Are bystanders responsible in a case like this? Would you have been strong enough to go for help? Or would you have been frightened to leave the group of people watching?


Add a Comment45 Comments

cell phone cameras, myspace and facebook make it so easy for these stupid kids to participate in these things. My daughter is a teacher and I see so much of the damage that these instant cameras invading every private moment. Then to have pictures and videos instantly put on myspace and facebook makes life unbearable for many many children. Nightly kids texted and post the most awful things about other kids. I just read a book even (fiction) where a character's "good girl" 14 yr old was up to 2 AM every night texting and posting and CRYING about a gym locker room photo that was posted with nearly naked. By cheerleaders and "friends". The boys who robbed, raped and beat this real girl are felons but the other 20 students are as much to blame. I would shutter to think of my child standing by and watching this. Doing nothing is just as bad as doing the deed. My parents taught me that lesson when I was 14 yrs old in 1969 and I was with 2 friends. We went to a restaurant in our small town and THEY ate and we had no money with us and left without paying. By the time we walked home our parents had been called and while the owners told my parents I HAD NOT eaten anything, my parents gave me the worst of the punishment. They were strict but they were right....."I should not have been there....I should have walked away." I think this event was on an early June evening.....I was grounded for the entire summer!!

November 2, 2009 - 1:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is completely disgusting. This reminds me of a movie I watched a long time ago called The Accused with Jodi Foster. In the movie, she was gang raped by three men at a bar while others cheered and jeered. Sound familiar? No one called the police.

I know the cinema world is not the same as the real world but these men did get convicted for the cheering. As the people that were involved in this should be convicted. They could have stopped the abuse. This is unreal.

These criminals watched as a young lady was brutally raped (with a foreign object) that left her unconscious and critically injured. Not one of those people had enough sense that this situation was not legal or moral? I find this hard to believe. All involved should be convicted for letting this monstrosity occur.

If you are ever involved in such a dehumanizing position, leave the area and call the police. Any call to the police is anonymous. You do not need to fear your life for helping out a fellow citizen. I am so angry about this incident that I am speechless on any positive thinking about this.

I hope these animals are placed in custody for the rest of their natural born lives, they do not belong in society.

November 1, 2009 - 9:42am
EmpowHER Guest

Those guys are Sick, and maybe it was mob mentality and the bystander affect, But those bastards deserve to rot in prison. I hope those people who watched are charged also. It disgusts me to know there are people like this in the world.

October 31, 2009 - 8:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

I hope the sick [edited] that did this have fun getting 'gang banged' in prison for the rest of their shit whole life!

October 31, 2009 - 4:33pm
EmpowHER Guest

I thought I could not be more horrified after hearing of this rape – but then I watched the mother of one of the bystanders, on TV, defending her son for doing nothing. She said he was afraid of being beaten up, so it was understandable for him to do nothing. Couldn’t he walk away, make a phone call, tell one of the police officers inside the school? The reason this man could watch a rape and do nothing is because he was raised by a mother who has obviously made excuses for everything he has done wrong his entire life, and she is continuing to do the same in this situation. I wish this mother could be arrested along with her pathetic son. As a teacher, I see on a daily basis the results of the “not my little boy or girl” mentality. If these men had to face the consequences of their actions years ago, it might not have gotten to this disgusting, tragic end.

October 31, 2009 - 2:53pm
EmpowHER Guest

I would love to see those bystanders charged with something. Even if they were scared, somebody could have walked away and told a teacher, guard, anyone. That poor girl, I hope with time some of the trauma will fade.

October 31, 2009 - 1:31am
EmpowHER Guest

That is completely sick. I can tell you, I would not have watched, I would have casually slipped away and called someone, because I couldn't have stopped 10 men on my own. I would not have watched and laughed and cheered, it makes me sick. No one deserves this kind of treatment, well I can think of about ten BOYS who do deserve it, over and over again every day of their miserable little lives. It's truly outrageous. I live in Ohio and am 17 myself, and I honestly KNOW that if this happened outside of my school the first witness would have notified someone. I guess this country is even more divided than I ever thought. My school is very unified and even if we hated the rapee we would never just watch, that's ridiculous! I can honestly say 2 1/2 hours of rape would not have went on outside my school dance, those little jerks would be lucky to get 5 minutes, because we all care for one another. We respect one another. What is this place coming down to? Ugh...

October 30, 2009 - 7:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hell yeah they should be held responsible!!!! Someone could have stopped this horrible, disgusting, and evil act. To think there are people like this in this world, the ones committing the act and the ones looking on. All it took was one person to get help and they wouldnt... who would want to watch something so cruel happen to someone. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

October 30, 2009 - 9:20am
EmpowHER Guest

I blame the town, apparently they have no idea how to raise children. The parents and the children should all be arrested. No joke, this town as a whole deserves a public execution over this. I hope they are happy with what they did and the monsters they spawned. Hope fully every single person in that town goes to hell and burns for an eternity over this. All their hands are red with blood, ever single person in that town.

October 30, 2009 - 8:43am

This was truly very sad. I would be devastated if this happened to my daughter especially after knowing it could've been stopped. I do not believe that this a case of bystander effect. The bystander effect involves someone not calling the police because they think someone else is already doing so, NOT egging on rapists.

My heart goes out to that teen and her family, I truly cannot believe this happened the way it did. Just makes you wonder what kind of monsters we're raising. I can't excuse them because when I was 15, 16, 17 I clearly knew what rape was and it has never been a laughing matter. To call them ignorant is really just us being ignorant about teenagers. They were just plain heartless.

October 30, 2009 - 5:21am
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