More on Georgia

There are finally some professionals weighing in on the recent case in Georgia where an 11-year-old girl accused three boys, ages 9 and 8-years-old, of rape and kidnapping. The article is interesting in that the only way in which rape is defined is as girls being victims:

Sally Thigpen, statewide coordinator for Stop It Now! Georgia, a public health campaign targeting child sexual abuse, agrees the problem is a growing one. There’s no single cause, she said. Some children may be repeating behavior they’ve experienced. Others may be influenced by repeated exposure to pornography.

“Sexual assault by children against other children is way more under-reported than sexual assaults committed by adults,” Thigpen said.

While the behavior may not be isolated, such acts are rarely prosecuted, particularly among children so young. But Medlin said she has dealt with several rape cases involving children under 10 years old, most referred to her by juvenile judges or the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.

Georgia’s criminal code defines rape as “any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.” While it’s difficult for many to fathom children so young engaging in such activity, it can, and does, happen.

“Little boys can get erections,” Thigpen said. Medlin concurs that children can get aroused by sexual material. “Children are capable of having sexual feelings,” she said. “They can experience the same [physical] sensations an adult does.”

However, there are professionals who do share my skepticism about this case and whether rape actually occurred, assuming any sexual activity occurred at all:

Some experts believe the case doesn’t belong in the court system.

“Forcible fondling between children is miles apart from what we think of as rape,” said Frank Zimring, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley. He has authored books and papers on child legal issues. “The motivation, the sophistication, the degree to which it is sexual … it’s not in the same league.”

Charging the children with assault may be more appropriate, Zimring said. “But considering the ages, and relationships between the children, I’m skeptical,” he said. “It seems like this should be discussed without involving a sexual component.”

Child psychologist Elizabeth Ellis also disputes whether boys that age are capable of rape, in the adult context. “This whole case is rather mind-boggling,” Ellis said. “If the boys did anything, it’s more likely to be grabbing and groping. To act in such a coordinated fashion just seems far-fetched. Eight- and 9-year-olds aren’t really capable of conspiring to commit a crime.”

As I stated in my previous post about this case, I have great difficulty believing this girl is telling the truth. It is not impossible for her to make up such a lie and to sustain it for some time. A few years ago three 11-year-old girls claimed that a homeless man raped them. He spent three months in jail until one of the girls admitted to lying just to cover up her and the other girls’ truancy. One wonders what reason the Georgia girl has for making up such claim. Nevertheless, it is not impossible or unusual for girls her age to fabricate something of this magnitude:

Ellis, a former counselor at a rape crisis center, said young girls in the 8 to 13 age range sometimes fabricate stories about sexual assaults.

“I get about one a year among my patients,” she said. “There’s something about our culture that seems to love sexual abuse victims.”

A 1989 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found rates of false allegations made by children range between 2 percent and 8 percent. However, the rate of reported sexual abuse cases that are never substantiated is between 50 percent to 65 percent. For children ages 6 to 12, the rate of false allegations is 4.3 percent. The rate rises with the onset of adolescence.

Granted, the study is fairly old. However, the last part is worthy of note. The rate rises with the onset of adolescence. It would be interesting to know the gender breakdown of the study, though given its age one could assume that the only gender polled was female. While 4.3 percent is not a high number, when one considers the potential results of a false allegation, particularly when made against another child, it is not a rate that should easily be dismissed.

While I cannot say for certain that the girl’s accusation is false, the fact that professionals who work with child offenders find the accusation questionable at the very least should be an indication that something is off about this case.

3 thoughts on “More on Georgia

  1. I still have big reservations about eight year old boys attacking an eleven year old girl. It just doesn’t feel right. Something is rotten in Denmark and I’m not sure what it is.

    I do not at all like the ‘the girl is bigger and stronger’ argument I’ve seen from some people, which, while true, is not relevant as the men here know.

    I’ve never bought into the low numbers for false accusations. When extrapolated from known cases and when measured from ‘all cases studied’ areas the numbers should be around the 13% mark for intentionally false and 25% for unintentionally false (wrong person accused, etc.).

  2. Normally I would agree about the size issue. In most instances the size difference is purely hypothetical. People assume that in case of women attacking men that men are in general far bigger and heavier than women and so women are no real threat to men. However, the reality is that average man is about 5’10” while the average woman is about 5’3″. Weight wise, the average man is about 185 lbs while women are about 163 lbs. Granted, there are greater size and weight variances and other factors that come into play that in some instance put males at an advantage. That said, in all honesty, twenty pounds and seven inches really is not going to prevent someone assaulting you.

    But in the Georgia case the size and weight differences are not hypothetical. The girl is literally at least a foot taller than the boys and weighs at least fifty pounds more than them. Or to put it another way, if one combined the weight of two of the boys they might weigh the same as the girl. And the fact that she has hit puberty adds another advantage of muscle growth, which means she is in all likelihood twice as strong as them too. Given that, and combined with the difficulty of restraining a person while trying to disrobe them to rape them, it seems extremely implausible that a 9-year-old would have the physical strength to subdue someone twice his size, strip them and rape them without any weapon or assistance.

    However, there is the possibility that the boys are simply being charged with rape when the actual act was more along the lines of fondling or groping. In that instance it is certainly possible for a child the boy’s size to grab at a girl’s breasts and for the girl to have some difficulty preventing him from doing that. But then, that technically is not rape, so the accusation would be an embellishment on someone’s part.

    As for the rate of false accusations, I honestly have no idea how frequently they occur. I would imagine it is higher than the 2% often claimed, particularly if one were to factor in the cases in which there was no DNA evidence demonstrating a rape, only the accuser’s word against the accused. To say that it is somewhere around 25% seems rather high, and despite my general dislike of law enforcement I am hesitant to assume they are collectively that dumb and inept.

    However, I do find it interesting that the study found a higher rate of false allegations among children than is typically found among adult women. I am not inclined to believe that a child is more likely to lie about something like rape than woman who would have a much greater and fuller understanding of the power of the accusation. One of the reasons the rate may be higher among children is because of how children are interviewed. The methods used make it somewhat easier to catch the child in a lie, whereas with adult women the method is to simply take her word for it.

  3. Both numbers apply to accusations (Complaints) not to charges! Not all accusations lead to charges.

    The 25% applies to unintentionally false, wrong person accused and such. These we know are high in rape cases and I think the 25% may be low: There’s good reason to believe that face-reporting during high stress times is more inaccurate than at other times and it is not all that good at any time. The problem (from what I gather) is one of how the brain stores visual information. The face, on first seeing, may well be remembered, but it is by cues until the face has been seen several times over a several week period; only then will the brain store the actual image. This leads to mistakes.

    There’s backup to these numbers from the studies of child abuse accusations. From the Canadian data we know that intentional false accusations of child abuse during divorce are about 13% of all such accusations and unintentional false accusations are about 25% of all such accusations during divorce.

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