These are some dark times we’re living in. While international news in the Middle East and the tragedy in Japan have deservedly sucked up front-page headlines in recent weeks, here at home it feels like the rash of alleged gang rapes by young men against even younger women have not gotten proper due.
In February, a 13-year-old from Banning, Calif., reported being held down and assaulted by two boys at a park.
Earlier this month the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl from Cleveland, Texas by at least 18 men and boys ranging in age from 14 to 26, sparked national outrage — due in no small part to the New York Time’s botched handling of the story.
Now, in Moreno Valley, Calif., a gang of teenage boys are accused of savagely raping an 11-year-old girl after luring her to a park bathroom from the mall. The alleged rape occurred back on March 10th, in what police are saying was part of a perverse gang initiation.
“It appears they were looking for a victim and lured her back to the waiting males,” Lt. Chad Bianco, who oversees investigators at the Moreno Valley sheriff’s station, told the Press-Enterprise. “I don’t know about motivation. I just want to say that it looks like that gang lifestyle and gang activity.”
Eight members of a local street gang known as the South Side Mafia, aged 14-19, have been arrested in connection to the rape and charged with rape, sodomy and assault of a minor. An unnamed older girl working with the gang, who lured the victim away from the mall and into the park bathroom, has been charged with abetting the commission of rape.
Michael Sykes, 19, (mugshot on the right) was the final suspect arrested on Monday morning at a home in Moreno Valley. He is the only adult arrested in connection with the crime. He has no prior criminal record, according to the Press-Enterprise report, and investigators said he may not have led the rape.
After the attack in the park bathroom, the victim returned to the shopping mall around 9 p.m. and reported the crime to police. The victim, according to police, appears to have no connection with the gang and was an unfortunate random target.
The South Side Mafia has a history of physical violence, drug sales and burglaries, police say. The police kept the crime a secret for two weeks to ensure the capture of the suspects and many in the community were unaware the crime happened.
“I don’t think in any way it could have been prevented. There are always victims and people preying on victims,” Bianco said candidly. “I absolutely refuse to believe parents don’t know their kids are in a gang. It’s despicable and shocking to think parents would allow their kids to be part of this.”
And though the media has to throw around words like “alleged” to protect themselves, these types of violent crimes are shocking. Shocking because they happen, yes, but also because they involve teenagers victimizing pre-teens. Kids, really. It’s frightening to think we still live in a society that fosters this type of brutality against women, where a group of young men think to themselves that it’s okay to sexually abuse a pre-teen female at random.
Moreno Valley officials have announced more police patrols throughout city parks as a preventative measure. Perhaps better parenting might be a good preventative measure, too.
(photo by William Wilson Lewis III)