July 1, 1995 in City

Nip Youth Violence In The Bud

Mona Charen Creators Sundicate
 
Tags:column

The bare-bones account in The New York Times (Metro Section, page B2) offered few details. “Girl, 12, Reports Rape by 5 Youths in Harlem” ran the headline.

According to the police, the girl was taken at gunpoint in the early morning hours to an empty elevator, where she was raped by the five boys.

Among members of the community questioned by The New York Times reporter, there was no outrage at the brutality of the crime. The girl, apparently, had been living in a home for runaways. Several Harlem residents interviewed for the story cast aspersions on the girl. “She knew better than to run around with these boys. Where was her mind at?” commented a woman who declined to be identified.

Another resident of the General Grant Houses, where the crime allegedly took place, openly sided with the boys. “I feel sorry for our black boys,” said Carol Johnson, “You know Mike Tyson did not rape that girl, either. It’s just a shame.”

The sketchy accounts provided by the Times suggest that the victim in this case unwisely put herself in danger. But the response of the adults in the community is breathtakingly indifferent. The assumption that young male teens, presented with a vulnerable girl/child, will naturally resort to rape is horrifying.

Feminists have tried for decades to make rape a feminist issue. Rape is the expression of male dominance, they argue. Greater empowerment of women will reduce its incidence.

Well, power is all fine and good, I suppose, but the feminists don’t have much of a concrete program beyond rape crisis centers and shield laws to increase women’s power.

Moreover, a whole branch of intellectual feminist thought is given to proving just how weak and defenseless women are. Thus, the feminist position on date rape is that if a man uses any method, including persuasion, to get a woman into bed, it’s rape.

While academic feminists ponder the permutations of seduction, true female vulnerability is on display in Harlem. I doubt that the boys who allegedly committed this rape (only one youth, 16, has so far been charged) are male chauvinists. More likely they are products of a culture that has ceased to inculcate any respect for anyone. The same young man that can rape a 12-year-old girl can shoot a 14-year-old boy. And he can do both without the slightest remorse or conscience. Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti spoke for thousands of police, probation officers, social workers and corrections officials when he said, “It’s incredible - the ability of the very young to commit the most horrendous crimes imaginable and not have a second thought about it. This was unthinkable 20 years ago.”

Crimes among teens and young adults have skyrocketed in the past two decades, especially among inner-city blacks. Princeton criminologist John J. DiIulio notes that most criminals come from broken families. More than half of all youngsters in long-term juvenile facilities have at least one parent in jail. Seventy-five percent of the most violent were abused by a family member. An equal number were eyewitnesses to murder, rape or violent assault before they committed these crimes themselves. It isn’t even true anymore to describe these “stone cold predators” as products of “broken” families, says DiIulio - these are the products of “family meltdown.”

These young men reach maturity “without knowing either the loving touch of a mother, aunt, sister or grandmother, or the disciplining hand of a father, brother, male neighbor, teacher or sports coach,” DiIulio writes. They cannot be deterred by criminal penalties because they don’t care about the future, their own or anyone else’s. They are dead to human sympathy or fellow feeling.

What to do? First, truth in sentencing. Lock up the very violent for a very long time. Two, more police on the streets in bad neighborhoods. Three, and most important, remove the young at-risk children from “criminogenic” homes at the first report of abuse, and place them in group homes run by religious groups. Anything less leaves these children on the certain path to brutal criminal careers.

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