Instead, I'd like to talk about the act of the gang rape itself, because I reread an article recently that really gets to the heart of why it happens and why it's possibly the most socially acceptable form of rape. It's called "They don't see it as rape. They see it as pleasure for them." It's about the growing problem of gang rape in England and it's an evocative look at why gang rape exists and why it's tolerated—to put it bluntly, in a male dominated society, gang rape is a version of fox hunting, a sport of sorts. It's the patriarchy in its essence, where the leaders of male dominance are active sadists but their followers have managed to convince themselves they do like women, they aren't evil, etc. [Alleged gang rape at Duke University | Participate.net (NEW LINK)]Ah, gang-rapes taking place in London? Could it be...not fox-hunters at all? This is a lengthy story in the Guardian, and some of the incidents involve white criminals and even white victims, but the largest element in the gang-rapes in this story are black women in London being victimized by black men.
I lose count of how many government agencies, schools and official establishments refuse to comment for this story. They say the same thing. "Sorry. It's too sensitive."It's commonly observed that when people say "It's not the money..." then it's the money. See how many people are saying it's not about race? Same thing?
"The added element in this is ethnicity," says Trail. The Haven's statistics indicate that, in 2002, in the under-16 age group, 43% of the assailants were black, as were 33% of the victims. Even in an ethnically diverse population such as Lambeth-Southwark-Lewisham (LSL), this goes beyond demographics. It is controversial. When a documentary on juvenile gang rape was broadcast by Channel 4 in 1998, the channel was accused of racism. Trinidad-born writer Darcus Howe was a lone voice of support. Later, writing in the New Statesman, he recounted how his girlfriend Betty was gang raped for hours in Trinidad, and how - after he spoke out in support of the documentary - he got anonymous phone calls saying his daughter would get gang raped, too.
"For heaven's sake," Trail says, "this isn't about race, it's about rape." He points to high numbers of sexually transmitted diseases in LSL, which also has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe - problems that were also hampered by a refusal to look at the racial demographics, in the beginning. "My line is lean, mean and clear," Howe concluded, in the New Statesman. "I take a side in this war, the side of black women ... There is nothing to discuss."
There is much to discuss, but it takes courage. A Met press release from last year - which stated that black women are three times more likely than others to be raped, and black males aged between 10 and 17 are eight and a half times more likely to be charged with rape - was never released. And there has been little sign of the "debate in the black community" promised by Ken Livingstone's race adviser, Lee Jasper (who was not available for comment).
The Commission for Racial Equality was hardly more forthcoming. "We need more data and we need to know it is being collected in a robust and methodologically sound way," a spokesman told me. "If there is a problem, we need to know who is involved and who the victims are. We are also concerned that low levels of confidence in the police might mean that young ethnic minority women are less likely than other victims to report attacks."
The majority of rapes are committed by adults at home, according to Women Against Rape. But young girls are being gang raped by young men or boys, who are - in reported cases - often black. Why? "It's very difficult to explain things away with cultural factors," says Peter Misch, a forensic psychiatrist specialising in adolescents at London's Maudsley hospital. He recalls visiting a young offenders' institute in Siberia in 1993, where each of the 20 offenders aged 14-16 was in for group rape. Camila Batmanghelidjh, who runs the children's charity Kids Company in Peckham, south-east London, thinks gang rapes go in clusters. "It's not about race. You have to ask - is it because the black community is the most marginalised and pressurised, and does that lead to emotional consequences?" She prefers to concentrate on the state of mind of most boys she works with. She calls it "emotional coldness".