The bad news: She's been raped. Then her parents disowned her.
"Offers of help are pouring in for an eight-year-old Liberian girl disowned by her own family in Phoenix, Arizona, after being raped by four boys.The 14-year-old, Steven Tuopeh, is being tried as an adult. The rest were charged as juveniles. The Tuopeh family has been in America since 2005. Steven Tuopheh's mother doesn't understand why he's being charged as an adult.
The girl is under the care of the Arizona Child Protective Service (CPS) because her parents said she had shamed them, and they did not want her back.
Phoenix police said calls had come in from all over the US offering money, or even to adopt the young girl.
The boys, Liberian immigrants aged nine to 14, have been charged with rape...."
Judgmental as This Sounds: Rape isn't NiceFrom some points of view, the Catholic Church has rules against just about everything. In a way, it's true. There are rules about killing other people and killing yourself: Murder and suicide are both frowned on. (January 28, 2009)
And, there are rules about what we're supposed to do with our bodies. That's because what we do to our bodies - and to the bodies of others - affects us, and others. And because "...Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body an soul...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2332)
"Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity:..." (2335) The Catholic Church recognizes the sexual union as something that's not just biological, but as an act which involves all of the human person. (2360 and following)
All of which helps explain why the Catholic Church is so rigidly opposed to sexual acts like rape.
"Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right...." (2356)In short, rape is not nice and we shouldn't do it. Maria Monks, the priests are being dealt with and reparations are being made.
Rape, Culture, and LiberiaThe rape victim in this case is from a Liberian immigrant family. So are the alleged suspects. We're getting a look at a part of Liberian culture.
It's an aspect of Liberian culture that Liberia's leaders, some of them at least, are trying to change.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian President:The blame-the-victim attitude toward rape that President Sirleaf and others in Liberia are trying to change is not limited to that country, or that continent.
"...Let me say that we are deeply distressed at this behavior on the part of our young Liberians and very saddened at this 8-year-old child who has been so victimized. We appeal to the parents to protect their children, protect their child, and make sure that those who have infringed upon her in this manner are made to abide by the laws of the United States in this regard.
"Let me say very clearly that rape is a problem in Liberia also. This is why we have made rape a non-bailable (ph) offense. It is a criminal offense. There is a strong law regarding that. You cannot even get bail.
"So, those parents should know that things have changed in Liberia. No longer do we tolerate this. And this is not a question of shame on the family, it's a question of an assault on a young child. And that cannot be tolerated...."
It's Not Always 'Those People Over There'I remember, not so many decades ago, when American culture and American courts were starting to realize that rape victims weren't 'asking for it' or otherwise to blame for being assaulted. I think that, in some cases, there was a severe deficit of common sense: but just as incitement to riot is no excuse for riot; foolish behavior is no excuse for rape.
And, in the case of this eight-year-old girl, there doesn't seem to be any question as to who is responsible for her rape.
Unhappily, her parents seem to think - or feel - that she has brought shame on them by being a victim. That's not right. It's wrong. Liberia's current president had something more to say about the situation:
"I think that family is wrong. They should help that child who has been traumatized, and they should make sure that they work with the U.S. law authorities to see what can be done about the other young boys who have committed this offense.The Liberian president - and ambassador - had quite a bit more to say. I recommend reading the CNN transcript. There's rather frequent mention of the unpleasant situations in Liberia. The country has been in a state of war for many years: the sort of warfare that's not bound by the Geneva Conventions. My guess is that the boys' values got warped by their experiences: although the teenagers certainly were 'old enough to know better.'
"Not only should they abide by the law, but they too need serious counseling, because clearly they are doing something that is no longer acceptable in our society here. It's a problem, but it is a crime, and people bear the brunt of the penalty for such crimes.
"They should be working with the authorities on this. I will ask Ambassador Barnes to work with the family to let them know what needs to be done, and to work with the legal authorities in Phoenix to make sure that this matter is handled, recognizing that we do not condone this and we must ensure the protection of that 8-year-old."
Which opens more topics than I've got time to think about right now.
Just a Suggestion: PrayYou don't have to, of course: you've got free will. But I think it would be a good idea to pray for the eight-year-old girl who was raped - and then rejected by her family. If she's not hurting now, she will as soon as the numbness wears off.
Praying for the people who raped her, their families, and the family that ditched their daughter would be a good idea, too.
Just a thought: take it or leave it.
- "Beach Killer Joseph Burges: A Case of Horribly Warped Christianity"
(July 24, 2009)
- "Zambia: Corruption, Hospitals, and Bishops"
(July 22, 2009)
- "Thought for the Day: Throwing Stones, Blindfolded"
(June 9, 2009)
- "The Pope, Angola, and the News: No Wonder 'Everybody Knows' What Those Catholics Are Like"
(March 22, 2009)
- " 'Get f****d, Catholic Church' - It Comes With the Territory"
(March 18, 2009)
- "Good News from Africa: But Some People Won't Like It"
(March 17, 2009)
- "Sex, Condoms, AIDS, an 'Immoral' Pope, and What Everybody Knows"
(March 17, 2009)
- "The Catholic Church and Homosexuals: Harsh and Soft, Judgmental and Understanding"
(March 13, 2009)
- "The Catholic Church Won't Even Let People Kill Themselves"
(January 28, 2009)
- "Psycho Santa's Slaying Spree - The Catholic Connection"
(December 26, 2008)
- "Capital Punishment: Killing Those Who Deserve to Die"
(October 2, 2008)
- "4 Boys Accused of Raping 8-year-old Girl"
KSAZ FOX 10 (July 24, 2009)
- "Liberian youths charged with raping child in Arizona"
AFP (July 24, 2009)
- "Girl shunned by family after rape sparks outcry"
The Associated Press (July 24, 2009)
- "Outcry over disowned US rape girl"
BBC (July 25, 2009)
- "Girl Raped, Boys Charged; Democrats Battle Democrats on Health Reform; Millions of Americans Getting a Raise Today; Obama Addresses White House Press Corps About Gates' Arrest"
CNN transcript (July 24, 2009)
World Factbook, CIA (last updated July 3, 2009)