Tag Archives: Houston Chronicle

Texas gang rape case provides chance for reporters to thoughtfully profile preteen victim

9 Mar

The NYTimes published  a story yesterday about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Cleveland, Texas. Besides being yet another advertisement for why no one should ever want to live in small town Texas, the story is infuriating the bejeesus out of a number of feminist blogs today for grafs such as the following:

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

Victim-blaming? Yes. It’s a lazy reporter including rote details that sound copied out of a 1920s-era stylebook for writing about gang rape cases. “She was known as a woman of loose morals” is a mandatory clause, or something.

Do I know he’s a lazy writer? Yes. I’m going to conclude that from the “some said” attribution he uses that is becoming as popular as the more familiar “according to some experts.” How many neighbors said this? Did they know the girl or her family personally? Why were they standing around watching children on a playground? Are they Grant Storms?

But what’s even more annoying about this wannabe gothic Faulkner tale that writer James C. McKinley crafts for us is that it’s constructed in the most formulaic framework possible. The whole “small town shocked by terrible events” one is kind of a go-to standby for when you want to write a story about something horrible but it’s hard to get actual information beyond a police report. So, you get statements from neighbors. Apparently this consisted of: “Eh, this one about how she kind of wore too much makeup and stuff will do the trick.” Boom.

The Times ran a similar small-town-disbelief story just last week about the Julie Schenecker case. This Texas article, however, is even worse in that it’s written with the least possible amount of care for the case itself and rather as though it’s some kind of generic horrible thing that happens in our ghostlike, abandoned-trailer-ridden post-apocalyptic America.

To see what McKinley skipped out on, just read some of the other articles about the case.

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