If the rape alone was not traumatizing enough, the 8-year-old’s
family disowned her for fear that she would bring shame to the family.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Hill told
the press, “The father told the case worker and an officer in her
presence that he didn’t want her back. He said ‘Take her, I don’t want
her.”‘ She was considered “damaged goods.”
Damaged goods are
non-salvageable and thus unsalable. It’s a commerce term alluding to
loss of commercial value. “Damaged goods” has migrated from its
original meaning and is now used to stigmatize rape survivors….
….The young girl is now in the care of child protective services and the community is outraged by the family’s response….
….Upon reading about the gang-rape of this 8-year-old child, most
comments and letters to media outlets immediately called for the
life-incarceration of these boys. Why should anyone have mercy on
humans, irrespective of age, who would go as far as gang-raping a child? Even with years in the prison abolition and reform communities, my impulse was to lock up these boys….
A Chance for Restorative Justice
are many layers to this crisis. There is an 8-year-old girl who must
live with the memories of her rape and her family’s abandonment. Four
young boys who will have to confront their actions during prison time.
A Liberian refugee community that must try to rebuild an already
fragile existence. A larger international community that must rethink
support services for the specific needs of Liberian refugees. And, a
Liberian nation still must come to term with the enduring legacies of
their country’s civil war.
Restorative Justice, even in cases of sexual assault (PDF)
is advocated as a form of justice that rebuilds communities after a
crisis because the emphasis is on the crime as an offense against human
relationships, not solely against the state. Furthermore, through this
restorative justice model, the first priority is to assist the
survivor, rather than solely punish the offenders. The second priority
is the restoration of the community as much as possible. Models differ,
but strategies such as family group conferencing, reintegration
services, survivor-offender mediation and survivor support services
often operate parallel to the traditional justice system.
is surely a long road ahead, and President Sirleaf is correct in
asserting that both survivor and rapists must be counseled so that
“they too will have an opportunity to change and become useful citizens
not only in the United States but when they return home.” The goal is
not simply to punish but to restore everyone so that they can be
reintegrated with their communities. We do not know if the 8-year-old
girl can ever return home. We do not know which wounds can be healed.
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