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Eight-year-old Liberian girl, who was raped, is disowned by her parents in Arizona

July 27, 2009

Via BBC News, four boys ages nine to fourteen were have been charged with rape of an eight-year-old Liberian girl in Phoenix, Arizona. All perpetrators are also Liberian. BBC News said the girl was lured into a shed on July 16th with promises of chewing gum by the four young boys. There, they held her down and took turns assaulting her for 10 to 15 minutes, before her screams alerted officers nearby.

The oldest suspect, a 14-year-old boy, will be tried as an adult. The other three boys: 9, 10, and 13 will be charged as a juvenile for kidnapping and sexual assault.

If that didn’t traumatize the girl enough, her family, immigrants from Liberia, is blaming the girl for the rape and has decided to disown her because she has brought “shame to the family.” The child is now under the care of Arizona Child Protective Services.

Many people have outspoken about this incident, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who commented that:

I think that family is wrong. They should help that child who has been traumatized. They too need serious counselling because clearly they are doing something, something that is no longer acceptable in our society here.

It was only three years ago that rape was not considered a crime in Liberia and is used as a weapon and a means of obedience . The parents of the girl will not be charged with abandoning their child.

This is disturbing but I’m not sure what to think of it. I am unfamiliar with Liberian culture and have some reservations about applying Western ideas to the girl’s family who abandoned her. Yes, rape is a used as a weapon in Liberia and happens frequently. Yes, in Liberian culture typically the victim is blamed for the rape. But does that make it right? Absolutely not. Any thoughts/comments about this news?

4 Comments
  1. Danielle permalink
    July 27, 2009 5:22 pm

    It’s not your culture that preserves the human mind, body, or spirit, it’s your heart.
    “Saving Face” is a vain idea that is supported in all cultures.

  2. Akhi permalink
    July 27, 2009 9:27 pm

    the extent culture goes to hinder the progress of humanity all the while it being essential in giving us our identity…
    As a Muslim woman, having heard all the stereotypes and getting pititful glances, beening acquainted with a lot of media prejudices and cultural wrongs this is still a shocker…where a mere child is disowned for a wrong she didn’t commit. When she needs her guardians the most, they look away. May God look after her and give her strength. Ameen. [surely He is a much prefered Protector]

  3. Emily permalink*
    July 28, 2009 9:49 am

    I agree with both of you, Danielle and Akhi. There is no culture that can justify something so wrong. I just still can’t come to terms with the fact that the parents disowned their own child for something she didn’t do.

  4. Erik permalink
    July 28, 2009 5:08 pm

    Unfortunately, this happens with some frequently. I heard a radio program about a year ago about a young Muslim woman who was raped and essentially had to enter a witness-protection like program to avoid being found and killed by her family.

    It’s also unfortunate that these are about the only stories about the Muslim community that the media latches onto. This story does not describe that vast majority of Muslims or the doctrine of the Muslim faith. Fear mongering fear mongering fear mongering.

    I know people justify some pretty whacko things with religion – but religion aside, how could one do this as a parent.

    [sigh]

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