Sunday, August 9

Guest Post: On the Limits of Multiculturalism

My sister Melanie sent a very thoughtful response to the post below regarding the terrible crime against an eight year old girl here in Phoenix. I was very impressed by it and felt it deserved its own post. There is an update to the situation at the end. Many thanks to her for sending this:

I too was aghast at this story. While not minimizing the personal trauma of this young girl, I don't believe her ordeal was in vain. Let me offer some rays of silver lining which spring directly from the extreme nature of the attack.

First, outrage was sparked here that was felt around the world. It wasn't just a local thing. Because of the details of the crime, especially the family's alleged statement, the story was headlined across the nation and even addressed nationally. That shows we still have a moral limit to what we will accept.

Second, there are so many horrible things that happen to children daily, it is somewhat comforting to know that we can still get outraged. It is important that we never allow ourselves to get so callused that we shrug off abuse, especially of women and children. Sometimes we need to be reminded. We cared about this.

Third, it is heartening to have the President of Liberia publicly address the issue again as she has done since she came to office. She is personally aware of the stigma of rape and publicly shared her own sexual assault story. She immediately ordered the Liberian ambassador here in the US to provide whatever support was needed for this young girl. Again, the immediate, positive, and public support of the Liberian nation is comforting. The rejection of rape victims is not the “culture” of all Liberians. Liberia is actively fighting this evil.

Fourth, while my own years of dealing with the Foster Care System and Child Protective Services were not pleasant, I agree that the young girl is better off in their care. (We cared for a couple of sexual assault victims.) She will receive years of free counseling-- in a case like this, mandated by the courts. She will not only be taught that this was not her fault, but also that she is a valuable human being. She could very well emerge from this with a more positive self image than if she had been raised in her family’s culture. (I base this on the experience of our young foster child.) The family’s shunning of her could be viewed as a blessing in disguise. It was the catalyst that brought the counseling. It assures the state will be cautious about returning her to any relative (which is the state-mandated first choice.) If the family rejects her, it will be far easier to terminate parental rights and move her to a permanent home. Can you imagine if the family had not made the disgusting comment publicly? The girl would have been returned to the family and been lost in the system. She would have been ostracized and probably received no counseling at all.

Fifth, it is also a blessing in disguise that the viciousness of the crime will cause the boys in the case to get attention as well. The oldest one will be tried as an adult, and if found guilty will be labeled a sex offender for life. That protects society. The younger ones will be confronted with the error of their “culture” and hopefully reprogrammed before they do more damage. Can you imagine if these four had not come to the attention of authorities at this age? What damage might they have done as they got older?

Sixth, it is comforting that someone was willing to get involved. She heard the screams, investigated and called the police. What if she had pretended not to hear? What if she had brushed the noise off as children playing? What if she had just taken the girl to the parents instead of calling the police? This woman was a Good Samaritan, and it is comforting to know there are still decent people out there.

It is tragic that something like this would happen to a young girl. Ironically, the very heinousness of the crime may lead to blessings for her. And it lets us know there are still decent people (in Liberia, Phoenix, and across our nation) who are outraged at things that are wrong.


UPDATE: As mentioned, the oldest boy, 14, is being tried as an adult. The Maricopa County Attorney is petitioning to have the 13 year old boy also charged as an adult. The two youngest boys, 8 and 9, were arraigned last Wednesday and ordered to remain in juvenile detention.

The Liberian deputy ambassador has arrived in Phoenix to speak with the girl as well as other members of the local Liberian community, many of whom are worried about the potential backlash they may face resulting from this incident.

No comments:

Post a Comment