Young People Process Gang Rape At Homecoming Dance

The gang rape of a 15-year-old student at Richmond High School in the Bay Area has made national headlines, but how are young people processing the incident? Youth writers from the Bay Area and Fresno say they would have tried to stop the assault, while others admit that they may not have had the courage to intervene.


Young Women Need To Protect Themselves
I was so hurt and heartbroken to hear a beautiful 15-year-old teenage year old girl, who could have been your sister, cousin, daughter, or even a best friend, was raped. Not only was she raped, but she was gang raped, beat up, and robbed at her homecoming dance. This brought tears to my eyes. Just thinking of her age and what they could have done to her makes my blood boil. At 15, she is just a baby. It disgusts me that people took pictures of this girl getting raped.

Rape is a big issue in our society because it has occurred for thousands of years. Rape dates back to the early American days, when Native Americans, blacks and Mexicans all got raped by white men, who also stole their land.

I know plenty of women who have been raped. To protect themselves, now they’re much more careful. They stay strapped up and watch their surroundings. It’s like safe drinking or having a small child; the way you would watch others is the way you’re watch out for yourself. Young women shouldn’t be naïve and assume rape wouldn’t ever happen to them. Don’t be the only girl in a crowd full of boys who are drinking. It’s just not safe.

Boys are not really aware or concerned with rape because fewer boys get raped than girls. Also, gangs traditionally rape girls to initiate them into their gang, if they choose to get jumped in; meaning getting jumped and fighting back to get in the gang. Even if they fight back, they still get raped sometimes.

If I had witnessed the Richmond rape incident, I would have broken it up. I would have been the black sheep in the crowd and said, ‘This is wrong.’ I would have notified someone, or perhaps I would have lied and said the police were coming even if they weren’t. I probably wouldn’t have called the police to report the rape because as a young woman of color, the police don’t believe what I say. Maybe if I was a middle-class white women, scared for her life, the police would arrive immediately.

Young people are desensitized to violence and sex because our generation has seen tons of this stuff while growing up. One reason why so many people watched this Richmond rape is because they are young, curious, naïve, and still trying to learn about sex. Like TV tells us, sex sells. People always want to know more about sex.

Rape victims I know personally usually don’t let it ruin their lives. They try not to dwell on the incident because they don’t want it to ruin their lives. They try and stay positive and surround themselves with people that love them.
-Valerie Klinker, 19, YO! Youth Outlook



The Friend Who Couldn’t Talk
If I witnessed a rape, I wouldn’t let it happen. It’s so sad to know these scary things are happening. I have always hated rape. When I was little, I saw a movie with rape as part of the storyline. Ever since that movie, I became scared of rape, but it never really clicked in that there is such a thing as rape!

I used to know a family friend who couldn’t talk. I felt sorry for her ’cause when she would talk to me, I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. My mom told me the story behind her disability. My mom said she used to be a beautiful maiden back in Laos, many years ago. One day, while filling up the water container, she was kidnapped and raped by multiple men. She was so traumatized that she lost the ability to talk correctly, and her lips also became crooked.

I don’t know why rape is so common. It’s not new. It’s been happening forever. In the case of the Richmond girl, it’s sad how people have stooped down so low to the point where they take pictures of these horrible events as if it were entertainment instead of help try to stop it. I’m still speechless about the whole incident.
-Angelina Thao, 17, The kNOw Youth Media


Afraid to Be A Snitch
I have strong feelings about this whole rape incident. If I had witnessed the rape, I would have called the police and tried to break it up but I would be scared in case they tried to do something to me. I don’t know why rape is high in Oakland, but I believe there is not enough watching going on or no one is taking precautions. I think those kids took pictures of the rape instead of helping because they were probably scared to help the girl. They don’t want to be considered a “snitch.” I feel sorry for the girl. It’s wrong what these boys did.
-Meme Garrido, 16, The kNOw Youth Media


It Happened To Me
After my ex-boyfriend raped me, I took great strides to bury the memory. I buried it so deep inside of me that I refused to legitimize it. I numbed my insides and disconnected myself from the memory. I convinced myself the rape happened to someone else, not me. The sound of my own voice yelling “stop” still seems like a distant whisper.

The story about a young girl who was gang raped at her homecoming dance in Richmond makes me want curl up into a ball and block it all out. Words of disgust, words I can’t even formulate, come to mind. It boggles my mind that anyone would voluntarily subject someone else to such cruel treatment. Would the guys who took part in this rape feel just as cool if the victim was their sister or mother? I doubt it.

You don’t live your life expecting you’ll be a victim of rape one day. I certainly didn’t. I believe the issue of rape is low on the spectrum of major issues being addressed these days. In order to make rape a more pressing issue of concern, activists, organizers, media, and government representatives should work together to address issues related to rape prevalence in the U.S. There needs to be a push from the top to make rape just as important as national security. Stories like the rape incident in Richmond need to be more than a weekly news headline. They need to urge us to organize around addressing rape and how we can try to reduce it.

I hope to God I never find myself in a situation like this young woman faced, but in the event that it did happen, I hope someone would call or help out. I can’t imagine going through two hours of such treatment. No women–or man–should be subjected to that.
-Emilya Piansay, 23, YO! Youth Outlook


What Makes A Real Man?
In our society’s ideology, we are told that to be a ‘man’ we have to be strong, fearless, in control, and my favorite (sarcasm), ‘men do not cry.’ Meaning that if you do not follow these rules, you’re not a “man”, you’re a woman, or something else–gay, for one. This is how females are seen as less of a person than males, and why people of different sexual orientations are mistreated and judged, because society is scared of losing control over people, and if they lose control, they’re screwed because next thing you know, people start thinking for themselves and questioning everything.

So what were these ‘men’ who raped the 15-year-old girl from Richmond doing? They were being ‘men,’ the way they are taught by the artists they listen to, trying to copy their role models, rappers. Rappers are also under society’s pressure to be ‘men,’ and not cry, not take crap from anyone, and keep their power by demeaning women by calling them, ‘b***hes.’ When will you ever hear a rapper that defies what a ‘man’ should be, and doesn’t demean women in his lyrics? Or talks about shooting someone because they disrespected women? Never. Because they do not make it, and probably never will, because they do not meet society’s criteria for who a ‘man’ is, or what they should look or act like.

But I digress from my point. I believe that what happened to the girl is wrong, and messed up. She didn’t deserve that; no one deserves to be humiliated like that. The men who rape her need to see a shrink, or talk to someone to get their lives together, and I won’t say they should look for God, because I don’t believe in one.
-Oscar Servillion, 17, YO! Youth Outlook


Rape Is About Gangs
If I had witnessed the rape in Richmond, I wouldn’t have said anything to the police or to the school because people get killed when you snitch on a gang. The rape was messed up, but on some level, the young girl initiated it. She didn’t have to climb the fence to hang out with the guys who eventually raped her. In a way, she was looking for attention when she started drinking with a gang.

The people who took photos were probably part of the gang. As long as gangs exist, there will be rapes like this one. People can’t do much to lessen the frequency of rape, so long as gangs are still around. Additionally, people will always want to watch incidents like this one because sex, even rape, is what every teenager wants or wants to see.
-Marina Saenz, 18, YO! Youth Outlook


It’s A Big Deal To Guys Too
Rape is a big deal to me because I ask myself, why would guys do that to a girl? It’s horrible. I would have called the cops if I saw the rape. I feel so angry, sad as well, because why on earth would people watch a rape happen instead of stopping it?

When I hear that someone got raped, it shocks me, because it’s like killing a life. When there’s a rape, and no one’s there to see, it’s still wrong, but when there’s people watching, that’s just plain horrible. It’s stupid that people would take pictures of it, just for fun. No one should ever go through that.

What I believe is that nowadays, if someone asks you if you’re a virgin and you say yes, they will make fun of you and laugh at you. Another thing is that guys are desperate for sex, so they gather all the guys and hunt for a girl. Also because they can’t get a girlfriend. I think that’s why they rape rate is so high.

Every girl should be aware of her surroundings. That way, the rape rate can decrease. I think all girls should have some kind of legal weapon with them, like pepper spray. Maybe that, or they can take self-defense classes.
-Luis Mendoza, 17, The kNOw Youth Media


My Mom Survived Rape…And Had Me
If I was there and I witnessed the rape, I would have immediately called the police and then tried to stop the boys from raping that girl. I do not like or approve of rape. I believe that it is disgusting and that you shouldn’t take someone’s free will away. Rape is a very big deal to me because I have friends and family who have been through it and it was hard for them to get over it. I believe that people who rape don’t realize the consequences of their actions.

My mom is a rape victim and I am the result of it. Some people call me a ‘rape baby.’ But I know I’m not because my mom calls me the miracle that saved her life because after she was raped, she wanted to die but she found out that she was pregnant. She gave birth to me and took one look and decided to keep me.

It’s been 20 years, and she hasn’t completely healed from it but she did move on with her life and not let it bring her down. I have never been raped but I have experienced some pretty bad things in my life, and I have been violated. I have also witnessed the same type of things happen to my sisters.

I don’t know what would change the rape count in Oakland, but maybe we need to watch more, be more responsible if we see things happen, and know where our kids are. Don’t forget to get all the information about parties they are going to, and let kids know that it’s only for their safety.
-“Marie” Clark, 20, The kNOw Youth Media


Is It in Our Genes?
Let me start by saying we are all animals. No matter what you believe in, God or evolution, it is impossible to ignore the nature of man. We come out of the womb with our eyes squeezed shut, our hands in fists, screaming our heads off, and most of us go our whole lives like that. Blind. Pissed off. And ready to cause harm.

The Richmond rape story makes me feel physically ill. It makes me hate youth. Incidents like these ones make me hate my generation. I hate the apathy we hold in our hearts. In past generations, there seemed to more communal solidarity. Now, we all have to protect ourselves.

In my heart, I want to believe I’m a good person and that I’m not capable of committing such a heinous crime. But when I envision myself at this scene, watching this young girl getting raped, the answers don’t come as straightforward as I would have hoped.

Would I have called the cops and tried to save her? I pray to God that I would have had the strength to be the outlier and not follow the crowd in this situation.

I want to believe we are not monsters. But how do you describe a rapist? How do you describe the people watching? Sick, disgusting, scum, and inhuman. It is disturbing, too, that these young people enjoyed watching someone else’s life being irreparably damaged at the expense of giggles and camera phone clicks.

All I can think about is what would I have done if this girl had been my sister or friend. Thinking about the possibility of someone I love being a victim of rape makes me want to ball up my fist, shut my eyes real tight, and begin acting out angrily like the animal we all innately are.
-Donny Lumpkins, 22, YO! Youth Outlook


An Adult Crime
The rape incident that happened in Richmond was a very sad one. It makes me feel hurt -– I feel very bad about it. I feel sorry for the victim, but I also feel sorry for the people who did it. These young men make me embarrassed to be part of this generation; it appalls me that people like that exist in the world.

Rape is a very big deal to me. If it isn’t a big deal to you, then you need to rethink how you feel about it. It is a very selfish act that dehumanizes people, and whoever even has the slightest thought of doing such a thing to another person is truly sick. Rape destroys the spirit, almost beyond repair. It baffles me that those boys could do that to the victim, let alone think it was fun, as if it all were a game. I’m curious as to what they were trying to prove to themselves, or to each other. I know it may not be possible, but because of the nature of the crime, they should all be tried as adults.

A lot of people may say that these young men don’t deserve to be alive, which they don’t, but I think otherwise. Death is too good for them, and is the easy way out. They need to stay alive behind bars for the rest of their natural lives to have all the time in the world to live with the guilt and shame that came along with what they did.
-Jaleesa Vickers, 20, The kNOw Youth Media


I Would Have Stepped Up
Rape is messed up. I feel for that girl. I don’t wish rape upon anyone. I will say that she shouldn’t have been drunk at night in Richmond. She was a little responsible for what happened to her.

I think boys rape girls because they aren’t getting anything (sexually) and they feel powerful upon raping someone and getting away with it. As for the people who watched this rape go down in Richmond, they are in the wrong. You must really not give a shit about someone to not help him or her out at all. To me, it’s not snitching if you stop an incident right then and there. If I had seen the girl getting raped, I would have at least tried to stop the incident myself.

As far as the pictures that were taken, folks who snapped the shots are the foolish ones because who knows where these pictures will end up, especially if they circulate on the Internet. These bystanders won’t get the last laugh.
-Amanze Emenike, 20, YO! Youth Outlook


Respect Our Bodies
If I witnessed someone getting raped, I would certainly call the police. My emotions become very disturbed when I think of rape. Although no one close to me has ever been raped, I do not wish for it. Hearing stories about people getting raped terrifies me to the bones.

I remember when I was young, I was very immature about respecting people’s bodies. Until I learned about cases of people being raped and tortured. I began to have a different view. Rape is not funny or pleasurable, and definitely not entertaining. Imagine if that was your son, daughter, wife or husband? Disrespecting someone’s body can cripple that person’s body and emotions forever.

What is even worse is that people can take pictures of rapes. In the case of the Richmond girl, it is incredibly sad to see how far teens have abused technology by recording these things just to be cool. I hope not all adults will view us as savages and outlaws.
-Dasen Thao, 18, The kNOw Youth Media

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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