From: The Ottawa Citizen h/t Grace
By Maria PollettaJuly 24, 2009
PHOENIX – The family of an eight-year-old girl who was allegedly gang-sexually assaulted will not take her back into their home, declaring that the girl has dishonoured them.
Charges have been filed against four boys, ages nine to 14, suspected of sexually assaulting the girl in Phoenix, Arizona, last week, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
County attorney Andrew Thomas has requested the oldest boy be tried as an adult.
The boys are accused of luring the girl with chewing gum to a shed by a vacant apartment unit, then restraining her and taking turns sexually assaulting her, according to Phoenix police.
The boys and the victim were resettled Liberian refugees.
The girl was turned over to state Child Protective Services after her family disowned her, Phoenix Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said Wednesday. The girl’s parents blamed her for being victimized and bringing shame to the family, he said.
Thomas filed a criminal complaint against the 14-year-old suspect Wednesday, accusing him of two counts of sexual assault and one of kidnapping in the July 16 incident. He is being held without bond, which state law requires due to the nature of the crime.
The other three boys, aged nine, 10 and 13, will be prosecuted in juvenile court. The youngest faces a count of sexual assault, while the 10- and 13-year-old boys each face multiple counts of sexual assault and one of kidnapping, county attorney Andrew Thomas said in a news release.
The county attorney’s office has 15 days to determine whether to petition the court to transfer any of the remaining cases.
Ali Keita, a Liberian who immigrated to the United States in 1997, said the crime was “horrible” and “serious.”
As president of the Arizona Mandingo Association, Keita works with Liberian refugees to ease their integration into American society. Keita said many refugees he has worked with lived amidst rampant rape and brutal violence in Liberia, commonplace during the country’s recent civil war.
Keita suspects the four boys were no different.
“Most of those boys (probably) grew up in very broken family situations,” Keita said, explaining that many parents found it hard to maintain control over their children’s upbringing as rebel attacks constantly forced them to relocate.
But, he said, “there is no excuse for the crime, for the behaviour” of the four boys.
Keita was less clear when judging the girl’s family’s response to the situation.
Anger is common when Liberian families first find out a female relative has been raped or assaulted, he said, as they may question why girls were in a situation that left them open for attack.
Keita said that initial response likely stems from disappointment and frustration, not with the girl, but with the family’s circumstances.
“(As a parent), you feel like you’ve failed … to protect them,” he said.
Though Keita understood the root of the family’s initial anger, he firmly condemned the decision to disown the girl, which he said is not typical.
“(The family) should be the ones trying to get her all the help she can get,” he said. “You can’t blame the victims. Then, you’re victimizing them all over again.”
For more on this story, please visit the Arizona Republic at www.azcentral.com.