Update: 12/17/09 – Police investigation finds the victim had recently filed a sexual harassment complaint against the attacker in this incident.
“If she was being raped, why didn’t she scream?” Dones asks. “Why did these students have to come up and tell us that somebody’s down there?”
Mustapha Cannon says, “It was hormones going wild.”
These are the statements of campus supervisors Marquita Dones and Mustapha Cannon in response to public concern over last Thursday’s rape of a 12-year-old student under their supervision. Because hey, why not begin blaming the victim a.s.a.p.
And rivaling for the most disgusting quote ever comes a statement from the school Principal VanHook who has been placed on paid leave during the investigation:
VanHook, reached by phone at her home Tuesday, said she was “resting and waiting for the truth to come out.”
She said she believed distortions and misinformation were circulating about the incident, but declined to go into specifics. “The truth will prevail,” she said.
VanHook defended safety and security measures at her school.
“I have the best site supervisors ever,” she said. “They monitor the halls. They take notes. When the bell rings, kids are in class.”
VanHook would like to introduce a little intrigue into the campus rape I discussed here in detail. There is a hidden truth that will come out and we shall see that her site supervisors are vindicated. Does she mean the two who just said that this little girl was asking for it?
Nearly all I can say is blech. A violent tragedy happened, the minimal necessary space and opportunity were there as they are everywhere, and you want to imply exactly what with your ‘truth will come out’ statement.
I will applaud the district for enacting the new policy of placing school administration on temporary leave during a rape investigations following poor management of the homecoming rape investigation at Richmond High.
The site principal certainly should be put on leave for this type of investigation when they are clearly motivated to protect the reputation of their school. It appears that this conflict of interests drives them to ignore structural and professional issues and rather to simply focus on blaming the child who has been victimized. That is one lesson learned from the earlier incident that could help in more justly addressing this mess.
For during the days following the Richmond High homecoming rape school district officials also attempted to claim the school was safe, and the dance was an overall success. They said, hey what can we do? We were doing our job and overall (aside from the two-hour gang rape involving over a dozen students) things went fine.
This kind of willful dismissal of sexual brutality and terrorism for female students is so many kinds of disgusting and enraging I hardly know where to begin. And the school district took heat for openly expressing this callous sentiment to the national media. And rightly concluded that removing those administrators closest to protecting the schools image from a rape investigation would be wise.
Now we can only hope those school officials appointed to deal with this incident will have the necessary distance and have less personally and professionally at stake so that they can adequately address this situation. I would also hope district officials will quickly stamp out this victim blaming game started by the campus supervisors and the principal. Here’s to hope.
I spent some time not long ago discussing another tragedy involving a school district’s misogynistic handling of a ‘sexting’ incident. I considered then the administrations repeated focus on blaming the female for other people passing around semi-nude photos of her. I talked about their highly public and implicitly misogynistic actions (twice suspending the girl, while ignoring the actions of those who exploited her photo).
More recently I was pondering the embedded racism and anti-immigrant sentiments of the South Philly High administration as they repeatedly dismissed the concerns of 30 Asian Immigrant students who were jumped (6 hospitalized) on campus during a school day.
This administrative underwriting of misogyny, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiments is so very blatant that there is very little chicken or egg question for me. The professional tone, the endorsed victim blaming, the denial of the brutalizing experience, this came first.
This came first.
This administrative position came first. The explicit and implicit message that the administration is there to serve the interests of the dominant, this was apparent to children all along.
It could be seen in the micro aggressions that were either ignored or perpetuated by school faculty and administrators. It could be seen in the dismissal of complaints, the advice for victims to grow up and take care of themselves, suggesting to targeted populations that they were inviting trouble…
This came first.
It could be seen in the meeting out of uneven and unjust consequences and frequently in the absence of any consequences to those from the dominant community for terrorizing students from the disempowered community.
This came first.
The campus supervisors who looked the other way as a gang ran down the hall toward a frightened Asian student, the campus supervisor who looked the other way as a group of middle school boys made lewd comments and girls moved nervously away from them. The vice-principal who let the boy off with a ‘warning’ for sexually harassing a girl, afterall he didn’t know it was sexual harassment because she didn’t complain to him. The ‘warning’ to a gang of students looking for Asian kids fight to keep ‘that stuff’ off campus.
This came first.
And then, when this girl was raped, when the high school girl was raped, when the thousands of girls were raped – everyone was aghast. Why hadn’t she stopped it?
And when the Asian student was jumped, when he was hit in the back of the head with something solid and heavy and then 12 people began beating and kicking him-everyone was shocked. Everyone else was brown too… and no one else was having such a hard time fitting in?
But that all came much later down the line… the adults were there first. And every 3 to 4 years there is a turn over of the student body… but the same adults stay there. They carry on as they always have. They were there first and they will be there after this graduation, and after the next…
And what comes second, what springs from the personal and social ethics, the tone, and the practices of the administration and the faculty? What values are encoded into each new group of students as they arrive on a school campus? Who do they learn is ‘in charge’ among the kids, who do they see as the leaders, who moves about freely, who is fearful to pass through the halls? This is what comes second.
The ultimate brutality of these possibilities… I’d say that is much further down the line. Long after the daily abuses have become so normalized they are no longer seen. They are just the way it is. Natural enemies, raging hormones, this is just the suggested normal student culture the administration suggests they can do nothing about. I mean really what could they have to do with pervasive bias, misogyny, nationalistic anti-immigrant sentiments, that is all coming from the students – right!?
In the current situation it remains to be seen if this middle school’s district leadership will look in the mirror, or if they will continue to make statements like the three above. And in the ongoing racial and anti-immigrant crisis in Philadelphia, one wonders if the statement made by Superintendent Ackerman earlier this week is a sign of perpetuation of an embedded bias she refuses to acknowledge. The one’s made by some teachers on Dec. 3 as dozens of Asian students were being beaten show the clear signs of what comes second, and the beatings and the rapes… well can they really be that shocking in that context?
No, not shocking at all, and yet utterly disgusting.