A Time to Rape
In the 90s a book came out that was later made into a movie. This book was the first book published from the pen of John Grisham, the lawyer turned author. In my opinion, it’s his best book. In some ways, it’s a modern day retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird. In Grisham’s A Time to Kill two ne’er do well good ol’ boys pick up an underage black girl named Tonia Haley and beat and rape her so severely that the damage from the rape makes her infertile.
Her father, Carl Lee Haley, realizes that in his mostly white Mississippi town two white boys will never be convicted of harming a black girl and that they will most likely go free. Carl Lee confers with a local counselor, the struggling defense attorney, Jake Briggance, and asks Jake if he’ll defend him should he need it. Jake, himself the father of a young girl close to Tonia’s age, agrees to defend Carl Lee should he need his services. Following that conversation, Carl Lee takes a shotgun to the courthouse on the day of the rapists’ arraignment and shoots the two men down in cold blood, accidentally shooting a peace officer as well, in the process.
The rest of the movie is about the fight to keep Carl Lee out of prison and away from the gas chamber. A Time to Kill is a story about a hate crime, specifically focused on race relations. In the end Jake gets Carl Lee acquitted by asking jury members to close their eyes while he describes the rape of a 9-year-old girl in gruesome detail. When he’s finished presenting the picture of a little girl tied up, raped, beaten, urinated on, and left to die he says, simply, “Now imagine she’s white.”
I want to tell you a story. Don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read the story, but you can see what I want you to see in your mind’s eye. This is the story of a little boy. This boy lives in a small Texas town that’s fraught with racial strife. The boy is Hispanic, and he’s 11 years old. He’s also a straight A student. His mother has been hospitalized recently with some health problems, and his father is an unemployed construction worker.
The boy has spent a lot of time hanging out with older kids in a bad neighborhood lately. People in this neighborhood have spotted him there on numerous occasions. They wonder what he’s doing there and why his parents don’t keep closer tabs on him. The boy is also on Facebook. On his profile, he says he’s 13 so that he’ll look older and tougher than he really is and so that maybe, just maybe he’ll attract older girls. He’s made posts involving drinking and sex.
One day the boy is out walking after school when three older boys offer to give him a ride. He accepts. He knows these boys, and he’s hung out with them before. They’re all African American, and they’re all much older than he is. They’re high school age. The boys all drive to a small blue house in the bad neighborhood, one that belongs to the aunt of one of the older boys.
The house is empty except for the four boys. There are no adults present. They go to one of the bedrooms of the house. They’re hanging out. Maybe they watch TV. Maybe they drink a beer or smoke a little pot. Suddenly, one of the older boys says, “I want you to suck my cock.”
The young boy is stunned. This request seems to come from left field. He tries to laugh it off.
A second older boy stands up and says, “You’re going to suck all our cocks.”
The little boy says, “And what if I don’t.”
The first older boy chimes in again. “First, we’ll beat you. Then you can walk home.”
The little boy looks at the older boys, and he realizes that they are serious. Any one of the three of them could pulverize him. The little boy doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds. These are big guys. They lift weights. They play high school athletics. One of them is double his size. His chance of taking on all three or of escaping is nothing.
The boy submits to the rape. The older boys take pictures and videos on their cell phones. The sexual activity takes place in a bedroom and in a bathroom. While the boy is cleaning up in the bathroom he hears the older boys talking on their cell phones and inviting some of their friends to also come over. The aunt who owns the house has come home, and one of the older boys takes him out of the bathroom and sneaks him out the back of the house and into the car.
The little boy has gone silent. Perhaps he is in shock. They made him do things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him. He is bleeding. The older boys drive him to an abandoned mobile home in a trailer park on the edge of the bad neighborhood. He’s been here before. The yard is strewn with trash, and there are household items that probably belonged to the last, evicted tenants, lying on the curb.
More older boys and even some men show up, and they all use him sexually, too. Sometimes he is made to service more than one man at a time. He is afraid to say anything because there are now several men in the trailer, perhaps as many as 20 or more, and he is afraid that if he protests or fights they will beat him. They continue to take photos and video as they cheer him on. The little boy is tired, sore, and hurt. He wants to go home, but they won’t take him home until they are done. The attack takes several hours.
Finally, they do take him home, and in his humiliation he says nothing. He showers and goes to bed and resolves never to speak of it. He doesn’t want to shame his father or hurt his mother, especially with her health issues.
One day soon afterward he is called into the principal’s office because one of the perpetrators of the attack has emailed or texted pictures and video of the boy’s rape to several of his classmates. He is afraid and alone, but he tells the truth.
That’s a sad story, isn’t it? You feel sorry for that boy. You never question where his parents were during the attack. You never question why he accepted a ride with three older boys. You don’t think, like I once heard another blogger say about a rape victim, that the police were sent in to do a father’s job, as if only single mothers parent rape victims. You know, or at least you assume, that since the boy is posting about experience with drinking and sex that implies he’s no longer a virgin. You know that he’s working hard to appear older than he really is, with his Facebook profile, his clothes and appearance, and the friends he hangs around.
But you never thought he deserved what happened to him, did you? You never thought it was a racial conspiracy to get a whole generation of black men, did you? I hope you never blamed the boy for not protesting or trying to run away. I don’t think you probably thought that the boy had brought this on by his behavior or his appearance, although if his rapists were homosexuals it seems conceivable that they just couldn’t help themselves, or maybe not. What do you think? Do you think the actions of any 11 year old boy could cause a man to somehow have to rape him? You think this is a horrible crime, don’t you? And you think the boy’s not at fault for what happened to him at all. Now imagine the boy’s a girl.
Entry filed under: Child Abuse, Children, Crime, Current Events, Human Rights, Media, Prejudice, Racism, Sexual Abuse & Assault, Violence, Women's Rights. Tags: Crime, Facebook, John Grisham, Mississippi, Mobile home, New York Times, Rape, Texas.