Mar 16, 2011

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Police say some of the sexual assaults of an 11-year-old girl occurred at this abandoned trailer house in a part of Cleveland called "the Hood."
 
 
 
This story along with this mentality of Blaming the Victim will be the focus of a special edition of Savvy Talk Radio w/ The Savvy Sista this upcoming Sunday at 6PM EST.  I hope you all will join us as we discuss this horrific assault.
 
I have just one question: "When is having sex with an 11 year old child ever considered consensual?"  So regardless of anything I will not use the word 'alleged' because sex with an 11 year old is rape regardless of how you try to frame it.
 
 

CLEVELAND - All Maria wanted was to see her 11-year-old daughter.

Weeks ago, the girl had been hushed away to a "safe house" for her own protection - after the phone calls started, and the disturbing, sexually explicit videos began surfacing in this town of 9,000 about 50 miles north of downtown Houston.

Seventeen men and boys, including a middle school student and adults in their 20s, have been charged with sexually assaulting Maria's daughter, a sixth-grader, in a dingy trailer. That number could grow to 28.

Last week, while hospitalized for an illness, Maria finally received a brief visit from the girl.

"My daughter was crying and crying and hugging on me," Maria said. "She didn't want to leave. She misses her family and wants to come home."

But the family's tiny gray wooden home off a long, dark forested road on the outskirts of town is no longer considered safe for the 11-year-old. Child Protective Services put the girl in a foster home for her protection and restricted her family from even speaking to her, the family said.

Local officials say the attack has devastated this close-knit community, leaving many to wonder who will be charged next. There's talk that a star athlete at Cleveland High School was seen sexually assaulting the girl on the video. The son of a local school board member is involved, too.

Someone has been making phone calls to Maria's house. Police fear they're coming from people seeking retribution.

"They keep calling and asking for her," said Maria, whose last name is not being printed to protect her daughter's identity. "They don't believe me when I say she's not here and cuss us out. They're trying to find her. This is the time when she needs us the most."

Inside a trailer

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, retiree Joe Harrison noticed an 11-year-old girl as he walked past an abandoned trailer to play dominoes with friends in what locals call "the Hood."

He thought the girl looked older than her years with her long hair and dark makeup. She was standing near the aging brown trailer, which was partially covered by a blue tarp and had remained unoccupied since Hurricane Ike except for an occasional drug user who would sneak inside to smoke crack.

Later, Harrison heard loud music blaring from that same trailer on Ross Street. But he thought the girl had already been picked up by her mother. He never realized anything horrible might have happened until weeks later when the arrests started.

"I have a granddaughter that age and can't imagine anything like that happening to her," he said. "Whoever did this should pay for it."

Cleveland police say the 11-year-old was sexually assaulted inside that trailer and a small blue house with white trim around the corner.

The assaults happened Nov. 28 after a 19-year-old with prior drug convictions persuaded the young girl to leave her house and go "riding around" with him and two other young men, according to a Cleveland police officer's sworn statement.

They first went to the blue house, where she was ordered to disrobe. If she refused, the statement said, she was warned other girls would beat her up and she would never get a ride back home.

Soon she was having sex with multiple young men there, the statement said. Someone used a phone to invite four more men, who soon arrived.

Not long afterward, the group fled through a back window when they heard a relative of one of the teens arriving at the blue house. The 11-year-old left behind her bra and panties as the group moved to the nearby abandoned trailer, where the assaults continued. As the men had sex with the girl, others used their cell phones to take photographs and video, police said.

Familiar faces in video

Over the next two days, the recordings went viral around school. One student who recognized the girl and several of the young men, including star athletes, in the videos, alerted school authorities and triggered the investigation.

So far, 17 suspects have been charged, ranging in age from a middle-schooler to a 27-year-old. Seven are high school students, including two members of Cleveland's state-ranked basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. Several have prior criminal records for drug sales, aggravated robbery and manslaughter.

James D. Evans III, an attorney who represents three of the defendants, insists: "This is not a case of a child who was enslaved or taken advantage of."

Investigators note an 11-year-old can never legally give consent.

On her Facebook page, the 11-year-old tells whomever she befriends that she's aware people have probably heard about her, but she doesn't care what they think.

"If you dislike me, deal with it," she wrote.

Sometimes she comes across like a little girl, such as when she talks of her special talent for making "weird sound effects" and "running in circles" to overcome nervousness.

But she also makes flamboyant statements about drinking, smoking and sex. Yet her vulnerability pokes through the tough veneer as she tells of "being hurt many times," where she "settled for less" and "let people take advantage" and "walk all over" her. She vows to learn from her mistakes.

While Maria said she never saw any of her daughter's Internet postings, she believes her 11-year-old might have been seeking misguided attention.

Earlier signs of trouble

Shortly before the video recordings surfaced at school, there was a sign of trouble. Her daughter had borrowed her father's cell phone, and afterward Maria discovered a lurid photo of a young man that had been e-mailed to it.

"I asked about it, and she said she knew nothing. So I told her I was taking it to the police, and I did," Maria said. "They still have the phone. And I've not heard anything back."

Meanwhile, not only has the girl been forced from the town where she was born, but authorities also want the entire family to relocate.

"The police think we may be in danger. Because if they can't get my 11-year-old, they might take out their revenge on us," said Maria, as extra patrols are making rounds down her street.

Neither Cleveland police nor Child Protective Services would discuss the safety issue or a closed-door hearing with the family held Friday in Coldspring. State District Judge Elizabeth Coker said a gag order has been issued.

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