Number Of Arrests Growing In Calif. Gang Rape
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Days into the news of a shocking gang rape in northern California, people are still looking for answers as to how this could happen. The 15-year-old victim was attacked after leaving her high school's homecoming dance last weekend. Police in the city of Richmond have already arrested six people, and four of them, all teens, were arraigned yesterday. As many as 10 men and teenage boys, police say, raped or committed other felonies against the girl. Two dozen others are thought to have watched the attack, which lasted for more than two hours.
Judy Campbell is a producer at member station KQED in San Francisco, and she's been following this story.
JUDY CAMPBELL: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: And one of the most shocking things about this story, something people have been talking about since it first emerged, is that these other boys and young men stood around and watched.
CAMPBELL: It is. And people in Richmond are having a really hard time trying to understand that. There's been a lot of talk here about the so-called bystander effect. That's the idea that the more people who witness a crime, the less likely anyone is to actually step up and take action. And we're talking about teens here. So there are theories about peer pressure, fear to act, power dynamics.
But I talked to Lieutenant Mark Gagan with Richmond police, and he has no sympathy for the people who were watching this. He says he's never seen a victim so harmed or a community so shaken by a crime. He doesn't think it's fair to call these people witnesses, because he says they were complicit.
Lieutenant MARK GAGAN (Richmond Police Department): You cannot be in the presence of an ordeal like this for any amount of time - 20 minutes, two-and-a-half hours - and see it and then walk away and have done nothing. You're not really a witness anymore.
CAMPBELL: We're starting to hear a lot of stories that the people there were doing a lot more than just standing by. The reports that kids watching were calling friends on their cell phones and inviting them to come watch. They were jeering the victim, making degrading comments. There're also reports - and these are unconfirmed - that people were taking cell phone videos of the rape.
Lieutenant Gagan says the district attorney is pursuing aiding and abetting charges against some of the witnesses if they do find them.
MONTAGNE: And can you put this briefly into context for us? Richmond, the city, describe it for us.
CAMPBELL: For the most part, it's a very low income community. They've had a real serious crime problem there for a long time. There's been a very high homicide rate, lots of gang activity. They also have a problem that a lot of cities similar to Richmond have. There's a real distrust of police. And often, there's a real lack of cooperation in helping them solve crimes.
MONTAGNE: And what about in this situation?
CAMPBELL: What I'm hearing is that this event was so horrific that after the initial silence, where people really didn't step forward, people have lately been coming forward and helping police. They're telling police, I don't like you. I don't trust you. But this is just a shocking event, and we really want to participate and help police. And so pieces of the story are starting to emerge. The bottom line in this is that the community's shocked. They're trying to understand it and they're trying to move forward.
MONTAGNE: And now, just lastly, how are they moving forward?
CAMPBELL: There've been a couple of meetings, one really focused on safety measures. There were cameras at the school that should've recorded this, but they were broken. So there's a lot of attention on that. There's also been a real outpouring of support for the victim.
But students are upset, that - they feel that they've been painted with a broad brush and that this doesn't represent them. So they're trying to make some positive measures. They're starting some groups at school against sexual assault, to talk about that, and also sort of support groups to try and foster more of a sense of community in the school.
MONTAGNE: Judy, thanks very much.
CAMPBELL: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's Judy Campbell. She's a producer with member station KQED in San Francisco.
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