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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

EmpowHER Guest

My heart and love goes out to this young girl, her family, and her friends.
I recently graduated high school, and to hear that my own peers could be so cold-hearted and do such a satanic act, disgusts me.

I feel that there is no excuse for the young men who took a part of this as well as the bystanders. It's just morally right to stand up when you see someone get bullied, beaten, and/or raped! No matter what. It is just pure evil to stand there and watch a young girl be raped and hurt and even more evil if your the one causing that pain. I hope they find the real criminals who did this and that they get what they deserve. I also hope that the bystanders learn a lesson from this and not become bystanders anymore. This world needs peace, foreals.

October 29, 2009 - 10:46pm
EmpowHER Guest

There was a rape of a lesbian less than a year ago by 4 men in roughly the same neighborhood...it's hard to look at this specific community and imagine how bad it is for women there. It doesn't look like things have changed much since then.

October 29, 2009 - 9:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have stepped in stopped crimes on a couple of occasions. I lack the ability to simply allow one or more people victimize another human being. I stood up to four young men just over a year. Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. Those who watched are guilty of compliance in the crime as far as I am concerned. None of them have the right to be called men or given any respect.

October 29, 2009 - 8:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

Let no body ever say again that we have too few people in prison. this incident proves, we dont.

I can only hope that the culprits go to jail where as rapists for minors their status among criminals is lowest of the low. When they get ass raped in jail while the rest of the gang watches, ONLY THEN justice would have been served.

October 29, 2009 - 6:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

There does seem to be a broader issue of racial violence developing in this story. As Kami Baker told the school board, she and the victim are minorities at the school. It's also beginning to appear the attackers and bystanders were hispanic and black. In addition to being a horror committed on a young woman, it is also appearing to me that this was also because of the girls race. So, why is no one, additionally, calling this a hate crime?

October 29, 2009 - 5:32pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

No one is calling it a hate crime because the victim is white. That is the simple truth. If the victim had been a black or Hispanic girl and white raced boys the attackers, you can bet the race card would have been screamed from the rooftops.

We apparently have developed a society where prejudice is only perceived to exist against certain groups and not others. We see it in all aspects of life - even the current political culture where people are unable to disagree with the administration without the race card being played.

I have a black brother (adopted) and a Hispanic sister (also adopted) and race isn't an issue in our family. They feel the same as I do on this issue. One thing to point out, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent are currently about 40% of the population. Within a few years, they will be the majority race. If you add in the illegals, I'm sure that they are the majority now. What will happen in our society when they become the majority but still keep playing the minority victim card?

That girl is a victim. Her family - her friends - all victims. They were also the minority. Why weren't they as minorities on that campus being protected from the majority by the school.

This is just such a sad indictment on our society.

November 5, 2009 - 8:56am
EmpowHER Guest

How many of these perps were gang bangers? How many are actually Americans? How many speak English? Are law abiding citizens allowed to carry guns for self defense in this part of California? What is the chance of being sued in California if an Adult male were to whip the crap out of a group of Latinos? Would that not be construed as a hate crime? This girl is nothing more than a victim of the U.S.A.'s lack of borders, culture and a common language...the progressive/marxist government no longer allows law abiding citizens to protect themselves....La Rasa is in full force in your parts...get used to this.

October 29, 2009 - 4:58pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am absolutely disgusted by this, especially as a mother of a little girl. If this happened to my child, you can bet my husband (and I) would take justice into our own hands!! ALL of these monsters - and they ARE monsters, NOT boys - should spend life in prison!!! And I hope they have it coming to them, if you know what I mean! I believe in an eye for an eye, period! As for the bystanders, they should all have to pay in some way as well. They are almost as guilty as the jerks that committed this heinous crime. I would NEVER stand by and watch something like this taking place. You can bet I would have done something IMMEDIATELY!!! The people who stood by and did nothing are sad excuses of human beings and nothing but a bunch of cowards!!!!!!!! Shame on all of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 29, 2009 - 4:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

its so carzy like the witnesses quote un quote were apathetic..........myy goishh man like yyy

October 29, 2009 - 4:32pm

This is too much to take in! My heart goes out to this young girl who will never be the same again. Society protests against cruelty to animals, what about cruelty to humans?? I hope the local community is mad as hell enough to make change and make the bystanders accountable.

October 29, 2009 - 4:20pm
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