Acworth Georgia, a small southern community 30 miles (48 Km) northwest of Atlanta, population 17,000, just had the worst example reflecting our receding social values and free fall to date. In a shocking and utterly unbelievable report an 11 year old girl has accused 3 boys, one aged 8 and two 9, of kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault and worst of all rape. This isn’t like the other stories to hit the wires where some kids are curious and get caught playing doctor, but actual brutal, real, rape. The events took place last Thursday, November 15th, in the woods behind their two story apartment complex, was reported to the girl’s parents Saturday, November 17th, and the boys were picked up by the police Sunday night, November 18th, after charges were filed with local police department. There was a doctor’s exam, evidence collected, and now charges filed by the Cobb County DA for delinquent acts on all 3 boys, the arraignment was Monday, November 19th. These offenses are the most sever under the letter of the law for the ages of the boys and the maximum sentence is 5 years in juvenile hall. These are the facts of the case as reported in all the print media outlets.
Where do I even start, what do I say? We all have an internal voice that quickly fires back answers to the things we observe in our lives. Which is worse, an 11 year old girl being raped, or 3 boys under age 10 committing such a heinous act, the act itself, or the building media firestorm we all know is coming that will plaster the ugly truths of this case in places we can’t but help notice and see? The first thing that comes to mind is hoping the girl was mistaken in knowing what was actually going on, but a doctor’s examination appears to dispel this. The fear was real, as reports of one boy threatening the girl with a rock making the girl fear for her life. One of the boy’s fathers was reported in some resources as stating that what transpired was completely consensual sex and the girl was crying rape now just to get out of trouble, he therefore just publicly admitted the act was made and that they will not contend something else transpired, at least for the time being. All the families involved live in the same apartment complex, just a few yards/meters apart, so ongoing resentment, fear, and intimidation are likely to transpire for years to come between parties and families involved.
Our children learn all their behaviors by us, society. They observe what is going on around them and mimic it. Getting into trouble helps them feel out the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior. Children are not born with knowledge of such complex social interactions as sexual behaviors. Most teenagers find this awkward until age 15 or 16, at least when I was growing up 20 years ago. We have heard reports in the health news outlets of girls maturing sexually much earlier, but age 11 is not the age where any girl is capable of understanding the act, consequences, or feelings associated with sex, much less able to say whether or not she wants to do such things with anyone. I know boys are adventurous, curious, and brash, but these events go so past that line that parental neglect on many differant levels is the only explanation I can come up with to make all this madness make sense.
The obvious culprits are the parents who are not supervising their children and knowing where they are or what they are doing or worst off, who and what they are playing, all families failed in this respect. The next are the media outlets, Grand Theft Auto 3 (a M rated graphic video game popular with boys), MTV sexually charged rap videos (considered soft core porn by some groups), cable TV premium channels, or the ever more realistic and graphic prime time shows, and we can’t forget the internet that gives access of everything to anyone. Related to the above two are the friends of all 4 involved. Did these children have older friends, tweens or young teens who gain entertainment and joy at manipulating younger children to see what the reactions to their actions are, we all know this kind of thing has been going on for many generations. My bet is on our society as a whole, yes the whole enchilada. Our children hold the reflections of our society. All our selfishness and self centered values are now beginning to flow over the edge of the toilet and onto the floor. This is not an isolated case outlining this. This week we also saw reports of a girl who committed suicide over an online relathinship with a fake boy, created and maintained by a social rival and her FAMILY, turned sour and mean in response to treatment of the one girl to the other girl, both former friends. There are no laws covering what happened and the families are poised to fight the battle in civil courts.
Middle class parents have to work 2 or more jobs to afford their lifestyles and measuring sticks to validate their success to their inner images. Our morale compass is seriously broken, the canary in the cage is dead, warning signs are now the most neon bright color we can imagine. Unsupervised kids who have raised themselves off of TV, movies, and video games are running around imitating what they see without adults close by to stop them and correct them when they approach a line, so they are running over the line and placing it in areas our minds can not fully understand. Aa a parent our job scope is easy, raise and protect our kids as well as you can until they are able to stand on their own, it is the application to meet this scope that is complex and hard. We have no time, need more money, need more sucess for out kids, want to have a better and richer childhood experience then they had. All this leaves one huge gap, quality time with the kids themselves. We, as a society, don’t spend enough time with our kids actually teaching them. We supervise them, feed them, taxi them from activity to activity but we no longer teach through play, discuss events kids see or hear about, help them explore their feelings and instruct them on what is right and wrong. We are so caught up in our own lives and providing a myriad of experiences for them we forget the most important part. Parents are not friends for their kids, we are the ones to tell them what to do and what not to do. We can be friends with our kids after college, up until them we have to provide guidance and dicipline until they can do so on theri own.
Despite the events leading up and surrounding it, now we have to deal with the fall out, and this is the most sticky part. We have an 11 year old victim who is scarred for her life and will have many issues coloring the rest of her life. We have 3 defendants 9 and younger who fall into such a gray area legally there may be new laws written about this case. Because all the people are under the age of 13, the youngest age someone can have adult charges brought against them in the state of Georgia, then technically the laws that we know and follow do not apply. According to the law no rape occurred, despite the physical evidence and shattered life of a little girl. How can we deal with 3 boys who not only did not fully understand the acts they were committing, the consequences revolving around them, much less how to punish them. As adults we have a specific understnading of what is right and wrong, what is legal and illegal, kids only have a vague morale compass and their understanding of right and wrong is very immature and obscure. They possible knew what they were doing was wrong, using threats to make someone do something against their will, but beyond that who knows. Kids understanding of cause and effect as well as acts and punishment are murky at best. This case needs to open the cold hard dialogue of what is going on in our society were we see somthing like this happen.
We all can agree that punishment has to be made. A serious physical act occurred and we have to send a message to the offenders, the victim, and society that this is wrong, will not be tolerated, and the consequences will be harsh enough to prevent future crimes, the whole reason we have our current judicial and punishment systems. The problems are, kids don’t comprehend or understand this system, so deterrence is not a major factor. Parents can get the message, but from past examples they will not change their habits or correct their children’s behaviors because of it. 5 years sounds like an adequate sentence, but for an 8 year old? In at 8, out at 13, a newly institutionalized system kid who blames his parents and resists authority for his troubled life. He will barely even remember what happened, only his colored fuzzy memories interjected with councilor and others perceptions and interpretations of what happened.
I have read some blogs that want to charge and punish the parents, others that want to hold intensive theory with everyone involved. I have no idea how to approach this. This is the problem of our unraveling social fabric. It isn’t bad enough we are isolating ourselves for our fellow humans via instant messaging, text messaging, avatars, virtual worlds and games we pretend to have real relationships in, now we no longer know how to interact or deal with our fellow humans. Our social abilities are so far gone now we have kids recreating crimes and acts that people 10 years older don’t consider. There is a father taking up for his son, trying to protect him yet where was he when he should have been teaching his kid the difference between right and wrong and to get adult guidance when he seeing something wrong going on.
Our society breaks down when our children are left to raise themselves. I was a latch key kid, watched cartoons before school and in the afternoon until my grandparents and mom came home. My entertainment choices were much less but, the at the same time my mom could come home, read to me, play with me a bit, and the whole family would do this or that. We had pizza night, family time on weekends, and most importantly they would let me know when I was acting inappropriately which was often. I never contemplated doing such a thing at that age, and would bet no one I know did either. At 8 and 9 girls were still icky and teased, nothing more, nothing less. Older kids were not played with because they were too busy doing other things. How then in 20 years did we get from that to this? This is a serious question this case will make us long hard look at our society, or at least should.
We have to change, we must change, or the fate of other societies will befall us as well. For a long time I have been talking about how our ways have been eating away at what was and should be in our society. How our current pop culture and fascination with instant results have lack of personal responsibility. Every facet of our society has eroded nearly to our most animalistic sense. We can’t let pride or indifference stand in the way any longer. We must humble ourselves and accept the ills of our way and begin the long and hard road to fixing the situation. We have to seriously look at what we were doing when our society worked and what we are doing today and stop the insanity that is leading to these types of acts from occurring and reoccurring, which will happen once the media gets a hold of this and begins to plaster it everywhere. Desensitizing ourselves to this will be the last straw in destroying our society. If this does not wake us up and call us all into action then it is truly too late for us.