Says Seven year-old, “Big Sister let them Rape Me:” Trenton, Irresponsible Black Girls, and Savior Russell Simmons

TRENTON — City police have charged a 15-year-old girl as an accomplice to the gang rape of her 7-year-old sister. Police said they believe the older sibling was paid for having sex with multiple partners Sunday night during a party at the troubled Rowan Towers apartment complex, and that she then sold her sister to others at the party.

My heart grieves not only for the seven year old black girl who was gang raped, but also for her 15 year old sister who sold her body and her sister’s body for money. Yes, my heart grieves even though many people are angry with the older sister for not protecting her little sister calling for “the book to be thrown at her.” To say the least, the big sister is going to jail for a very long time. But yet, my heart weeps for her as it wept for Precious’ mother, Mary. It weeps because it says something about the level of sexual abuse she herself must have experienced to make the idea of being complicit in her sister’s rape plausible. My heart moans because she like other girls knows that they can make a living by selling their bodies. It wails and weeps because no one stepped in to stop her first sexual abuse. My heart grieves.

The question is: Can we really be angry with the 15 year old sister for what she did? And I am having a hard time answering this question because a part of me wants to be angry at her for not protecting her little sister. However, I have to assess how much of my sadness and anger is in response to the crime of rape and how much of it is in response to her not being a good big sister. You know the type of big sister my older sister was forced to be completely responsible for raising me when she was only a girl herself because . . . momma had to work late . . . momma did not like being tied down . . . daycare is expensive . . . momma had a second job . . . momma was gone . . . momma had to party . . . daddy was gone . . . so she became responsible for raising and protecting “us” her younger siblings.

And so, if I’m honest a small part of me is a little upset because she did not conform to cultural and societal expectations of being a responsible urban working class big sister. She exposed and facilitated sexual violence against her little sister. She failed to uphold the dominant trope of responsibility that Black girls are often socialized into at very early ages because they are black, poor, and girl. She did not live up to the expectations of what it means to be an urban black girl child whose parents are absent (for various reasons) and who has younger siblings. She was not Troy from Crooklyn who raised her brothers after her mother’s death. She was not LaRhette from Take the Lead who raised her sister while her mother did drugs. She was not Maxine from Soul Food who helped to raise her younger sister. She was not Frankie from Set it Off who slept with a man to pay for her brother to go to college.

On a whole the big sister was irresponsible. And the one thing we are told explicitly and implicitly as black girl children is to be responsible because the survival of our black communities is dependent upon us taking on a bunch of responsibilities including mothering (i.e. protecting) our siblings even if we have not being mothered (i.e. protected) ourselves. (And yes I am generalizing because I can . . . it’s my blog.) And, yet my heart grieves for the older sister. It moans and weeps a story of violations . . . a story of silence . . . a story of normalized violence against women and girls . . . my heart grieve.

And what I find equally troubling about this story is how black men including Mr. Feminist himself (straight sarcasm), Russell Simmons, organized a march to highlight what happened in Trenton, New Jersey Not once did they mention rethinking how we should construct a non dominant masculinity or critique the culture of violence against women in the world. Oh, no. Their response to this grave tragedy is to get more men of color to patrol the streets as if rape and gang rape does not happen in safe neighborhoods as if seeing more men walking around will make girls and women feel safer. Perhaps, if this gesture was connected to envisioning a non dominant masculinity and creating a culture of trust among men and women, perhaps, I can co-sign such an activity. But, because this is not the case and because Russell Simmons is leading the charge, who was only on Oprah three years ago talking about how objectifying black women is the rapper’s art form, I cannot condone such foolery and I say in the infamous words of Scrooge, bah hum bug.

Overall, my heart grieves for both sisters because they have a long way to heal.

  • When I first heard this story, I was sickened. I am a child of the Bronx and I have seen some terrible things go down. Young girls and women surviving on the streets. Some were successful but many not. All of this goes to a continuing cycle of Black pain. In this case, everyone, including myself are left wondering how could she let this happen. Well, after the gasps, the anger, and feelings of compassion, the bottom line is, she couldn’t give what she didn’t have. There was no well to draw upon to help herself or her sister. If you ask me for five dollars and I don’t have it and don’t have any way of getting it, I can’t give it to you no matter how much you may scream at me. She just doesn’t have what it takes to be a protector.

  • When I first heard this story, I was sickened. I am a child of the Bronx and I have seen some terrible things go down. Young girls and women surviving on the streets. Some were successful but many not. All of this goes to a continuing cycle of Black pain. In this case, everyone, including myself are left wondering how could she let this happen. Well, after the gasps, the anger, and feelings of compassion, the bottom line is, she couldn’t give what she didn’t have. There was no well to draw upon to help herself or her sister. If you ask me for five dollars and I don’t have it and don’t have any way of getting it, I can’t give it to you no matter how much you may scream at me. She just doesn’t have what it takes to be a protector.

  • Fallon

    @Debra,

    Yes, I hear you. The story breaks my heart and really gets at the need for us to be in some ways stand in mothers, mentors, other mothers, etc for our black and brown girl children and fight heavily against other forms of oppression like poverty, racism, and sexism that make this story more the norm then we care to admit. I am at loss with this story in some ways.

  • Fallon

    @Debra,

    Yes, I hear you. The story breaks my heart and really gets at the need for us to be in some ways stand in mothers, mentors, other mothers, etc for our black and brown girl children and fight heavily against other forms of oppression like poverty, racism, and sexism that make this story more the norm then we care to admit. I am at loss with this story in some ways.

  • GFusion

    Well said Sis! You can generalize not only because it is ur blog but because we know this is a global issue amongst global Africans & we all need to start taking responsibility in looking at the bigger picture. The sister is 15 years old, a child- who dropped their responsibility in taking care of her. My heart grieves for her just as much as her little sister. People like Russell Simmons should stop representing these issues just because they have money, a platform & access when they clearly need an education themselves in their own implicit behavior in our culture that does not respect women & rather promotes this sort of behavior in one form or another.

    more Russell tomfoolery:
    http://globalfusionproductions.com/fbl/makes-me-wanna-holla-throw-up-both-my-hands-the-education-gap-n-word-usage-up-4-debate-again-in-the-black-community/

  • GFusion

    Well said Sis! You can generalize not only because it is ur blog but because we know this is a global issue amongst global Africans & we all need to start taking responsibility in looking at the bigger picture. The sister is 15 years old, a child- who dropped their responsibility in taking care of her. My heart grieves for her just as much as her little sister. People like Russell Simmons should stop representing these issues just because they have money, a platform & access when they clearly need an education themselves in their own implicit behavior in our culture that does not respect women & rather promotes this sort of behavior in one form or another.

    more Russell tomfoolery:
    http://globalfusionproductions.com/fbl/makes-me-wanna-holla-throw-up-both-my-hands-the-education-gap-n-word-usage-up-4-debate-again-in-the-black-community/

  • This is an amazingly poignant take on the Trenton tragedy/travesty. Thank you for putting your finger on the real issue, here: That BOTH girls were abused and used and left to be nothing more than the walking dead. Marching and patrolling are cute and all, but really, when do we get to the part where MEN protect their families where it counts—by being physically present, by physically, emotionally, mentally and financially supporting their children and the mothers they make those children with, and by being, well, by standing up and being counted as MEN in our communities, instead of little boys who need “protecting.” Tell me when THAT happens, and I’ll be impressed by the celebrity “efforts.”

  • This is an amazingly poignant take on the Trenton tragedy/travesty. Thank you for putting your finger on the real issue, here: That BOTH girls were abused and used and left to be nothing more than the walking dead. Marching and patrolling are cute and all, but really, when do we get to the part where MEN protect their families where it counts—by being physically present, by physically, emotionally, mentally and financially supporting their children and the mothers they make those children with, and by being, well, by standing up and being counted as MEN in our communities, instead of little boys who need “protecting.” Tell me when THAT happens, and I’ll be impressed by the celebrity “efforts.”

  • Okay, I’m not a blogger but here it goes…I’m am just wondering where is the mother in this picture. If parents can be arrested for their children not attending school and being left alone (child abandonment)regardless if she has to work..where is the mama? At 15 I wish my daughter would be at some party where there were apparently no adults…And take her little sister…please…While my hearts goes out to both of these little sisters. I’m mad as hell at the mama on one hand, because I don’t know her story, and I don’t know if the 15 year disobeyed her mama’s order not to leave the house. But being the oldest daughter that my mother had, I raised my younger sister and brother all the way to adulthood. Just recently cutting them loose. I gave up my life to protect them, made sure that went to school, ate, had clean close and even had a little fun. I do all these things now for my own 3 children…because I don’t want to be like MY mama….

    Russell Simmons need to sit down and shut up. He don’t have a clue about the black woman’s struggle. With that being said, where is the daddy? And please don’t get me started on the media, we could be here all day. Did the girl really give her sister over to be ganged raped, or did they fellows just get tired of her and saw her sister? Was the 15 year old sister drugged, what did the 15 year have to say about all of this, what did the little sister have to say about all of this, who was there when they were questioned? Too many fill in the blanks, do we really have a clear picture of what happen. And one last question, are charges being brought against the fellows?

  • Okay, I’m not a blogger but here it goes…I’m am just wondering where is the mother in this picture. If parents can be arrested for their children not attending school and being left alone (child abandonment)regardless if she has to work..where is the mama? At 15 I wish my daughter would be at some party where there were apparently no adults…And take her little sister…please…While my hearts goes out to both of these little sisters. I’m mad as hell at the mama on one hand, because I don’t know her story, and I don’t know if the 15 year disobeyed her mama’s order not to leave the house. But being the oldest daughter that my mother had, I raised my younger sister and brother all the way to adulthood. Just recently cutting them loose. I gave up my life to protect them, made sure that went to school, ate, had clean close and even had a little fun. I do all these things now for my own 3 children…because I don’t want to be like MY mama….

    Russell Simmons need to sit down and shut up. He don’t have a clue about the black woman’s struggle. With that being said, where is the daddy? And please don’t get me started on the media, we could be here all day. Did the girl really give her sister over to be ganged raped, or did they fellows just get tired of her and saw her sister? Was the 15 year old sister drugged, what did the 15 year have to say about all of this, what did the little sister have to say about all of this, who was there when they were questioned? Too many fill in the blanks, do we really have a clear picture of what happen. And one last question, are charges being brought against the fellows?

  • Nathalie

    Great blog post Fallon! we covered this on my recent Pacifica radio show, click link to listen:
    http://174.121.28.18/~uarchive/files/mp3/100415_120001thursnoonto1pm.MP3
    We address the normalizing of sexual abuse of girls and the ongoing defense of perpetrators, and how this impacts African American girls who are subject to sexual abuse and violence at 2.5 times the rate of girls of other races. with Stop It Now.org! & A Call to Men.org. + commentary by fiercewarrior Gina McCauley, of WhatAboutOurDaughters.com. Women Body & Soul radio @ WBAI.org 99.5 FM, NYC
    4/15/10 @ 12 noon EST.

  • Nathalie

    Great blog post Fallon! we covered this on my recent Pacifica radio show, click link to listen:
    http://174.121.28.18/~uarchive/files/mp3/100415_120001thursnoonto1pm.MP3
    We address the normalizing of sexual abuse of girls and the ongoing defense of perpetrators, and how this impacts African American girls who are subject to sexual abuse and violence at 2.5 times the rate of girls of other races. with Stop It Now.org! & A Call to Men.org. + commentary by fiercewarrior Gina McCauley, of WhatAboutOurDaughters.com. Women Body & Soul radio @ WBAI.org 99.5 FM, NYC
    4/15/10 @ 12 noon EST.

  • Fallon

    @GFUSION,

    Thank you for the link. Yes, Russell is the epitome of ignorance. If he can make money off of black people he will.

    @Rochelle,

    Both girls have been in and out of foster care, so I am not quite sure what their current home situation is. But, I hear you when you talk about taking care of your younger siblings which is what my blog was trying to get at. Many people are upset with the older sister not only because she did a terrible thing, but also because she did not uphold the image of what we have come to know as urban black girl who raises her younger siblings against all odds. There is a level of expectation (i.e. responsibility) that we attach to urban black girl children with younger siblings and whose parents are absent because of workload, emotional distress, drugs, death, etc.

    @Nathalie,

    I will definitely check out the radio show. Thank you for sharing.

  • Fallon

    @GFUSION,

    Thank you for the link. Yes, Russell is the epitome of ignorance. If he can make money off of black people he will.

    @Rochelle,

    Both girls have been in and out of foster care, so I am not quite sure what their current home situation is. But, I hear you when you talk about taking care of your younger siblings which is what my blog was trying to get at. Many people are upset with the older sister not only because she did a terrible thing, but also because she did not uphold the image of what we have come to know as urban black girl who raises her younger siblings against all odds. There is a level of expectation (i.e. responsibility) that we attach to urban black girl children with younger siblings and whose parents are absent because of workload, emotional distress, drugs, death, etc.

    @Nathalie,

    I will definitely check out the radio show. Thank you for sharing.

  • JMAN Brooklyn

    You go Gurll !!!! Today …. I saw a young woman on the subway threatening another young woman. She said “I’m going to drop this bitch on the tracks” …it was immediately obvious that I was to blame for this incident ..what with my dominant masculinity and all. So, I turned myself into the nearest constable. Unfortunately, he told me (in his best Paul Mooney voice) “I don’t have time to waste with a Ni……” So I went home and read to my two daughters, kissed my wife and thought how would (should) I further the culture of violence against women.

  • JMAN Brooklyn

    You go Gurll !!!! Today …. I saw a young woman on the subway threatening another young woman. She said “I’m going to drop this bitch on the tracks” …it was immediately obvious that I was to blame for this incident ..what with my dominant masculinity and all. So, I turned myself into the nearest constable. Unfortunately, he told me (in his best Paul Mooney voice) “I don’t have time to waste with a Ni……” So I went home and read to my two daughters, kissed my wife and thought how would (should) I further the culture of violence against women.

  • Fallon

    @JMAN Brooklyn,

    I do not find your words amusing at all. Clearly, your attempt at sarcasm is a miss therefore I won’t entertain your comment.

  • Fallon

    @JMAN Brooklyn,

    I do not find your words amusing at all. Clearly, your attempt at sarcasm is a miss therefore I won’t entertain your comment.

  • Dantie

    I struggle with you, Fallon, not only because we are quick to point fingers at this girl, but her parents as well. All are negligent and irresponsible, even malicious, but it seems like the ultimate in the obvious to ask a somewhat neglected question in this situation: “What group of men do I know who would get together to rape anyone, let alone a 7-year-old and a 15-year-old?”

    It’s part of our culture to minimize, ignore, or normalize sexualized violent male behavior; rape is often characterized as being someone else’s fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for somehow inviting the behavior, or for “letting” others be “at risk.” We assume that “men are going to be that way,” and further assume that the responsibility to stay the hell out of the way is solely upon women and girls.

    (This reminds me of your comment about Mary, who is scripted to take the bulk of the audience’s blame for Precious’ abuse, while Precious’ father is largely absent from the film, and is hardly held accountable or responsible for his destructive actions.)

    But I agree with you that the bigger and more difficult question is–how do we begin to challenge those assumptions as men and women? How do we begin to raise girls and boys to be women and men who imagine gender in a completely different way?

    Thank you for posting this; your take is on point, and needs hearing and discussion.

  • Dantie

    I struggle with you, Fallon, not only because we are quick to point fingers at this girl, but her parents as well. All are negligent and irresponsible, even malicious, but it seems like the ultimate in the obvious to ask a somewhat neglected question in this situation: “What group of men do I know who would get together to rape anyone, let alone a 7-year-old and a 15-year-old?”

    It’s part of our culture to minimize, ignore, or normalize sexualized violent male behavior; rape is often characterized as being someone else’s fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for somehow inviting the behavior, or for “letting” others be “at risk.” We assume that “men are going to be that way,” and further assume that the responsibility to stay the hell out of the way is solely upon women and girls.

    (This reminds me of your comment about Mary, who is scripted to take the bulk of the audience’s blame for Precious’ abuse, while Precious’ father is largely absent from the film, and is hardly held accountable or responsible for his destructive actions.)

    But I agree with you that the bigger and more difficult question is–how do we begin to challenge those assumptions as men and women? How do we begin to raise girls and boys to be women and men who imagine gender in a completely different way?

    Thank you for posting this; your take is on point, and needs hearing and discussion.

  • Fallon

    @Dantie,
    I am not pointing fingers at the young woman, I was simply saying that a part of people’s anger stem from images of what it means to be an older black girl child with younger siblings whose parents are not present and that we expect for them to be sacrificing and longsuffering . . . wanting the best for their younger siblings. And perhaps in addition to our anger of normalized violence against black women in general that perhaps some of it has to do with the expectations we have of our older girl children. Comments I have read and heard are, “How could she . . . I had to raise my younger siblings and I would never do such a thing . . . she should have taken care of her . . .”

    So, my point is not to blame her, but to show how implicit in our anger with her is assumptions about what it means to be a big sister whose parents are not present (i.e. mentally, emotionally, or physically). And perhaps, the expectation is an expectation we have for all people not to harm, however, I think for this story it pulls on racialized gendered scripts of what it means to a black girl child with siblings.
    And of course, I think the men in this case are responsible and the wider culture that normalizes male violence against women and girls. That goes without saying. And I get at this when I make mention of Russell Simmons and his crew about how the conceptualize the problem and solution to this narrative of violence. I believe that we have to have an intersectional conversation about how we construct masculinity, poverty, racism, and sexism.

    Thank you for your comment because I think you raise great questions and concerns.

  • Fallon

    @Dantie,
    I am not pointing fingers at the young woman, I was simply saying that a part of people’s anger stem from images of what it means to be an older black girl child with younger siblings whose parents are not present and that we expect for them to be sacrificing and longsuffering . . . wanting the best for their younger siblings. And perhaps in addition to our anger of normalized violence against black women in general that perhaps some of it has to do with the expectations we have of our older girl children. Comments I have read and heard are, “How could she . . . I had to raise my younger siblings and I would never do such a thing . . . she should have taken care of her . . .”

    So, my point is not to blame her, but to show how implicit in our anger with her is assumptions about what it means to be a big sister whose parents are not present (i.e. mentally, emotionally, or physically). And perhaps, the expectation is an expectation we have for all people not to harm, however, I think for this story it pulls on racialized gendered scripts of what it means to a black girl child with siblings.
    And of course, I think the men in this case are responsible and the wider culture that normalizes male violence against women and girls. That goes without saying. And I get at this when I make mention of Russell Simmons and his crew about how the conceptualize the problem and solution to this narrative of violence. I believe that we have to have an intersectional conversation about how we construct masculinity, poverty, racism, and sexism.

    Thank you for your comment because I think you raise great questions and concerns.

  • Dantie

    Thanks for responding. And to be clear–my post was in support of what you’ve written. I did not conclude from your original blog that you meant to point fingers at the elder sister, but that you in fact are examining the idealized cultural models from film, television etc. that make people want to hold her more responsible than the men who attacked her sister. I’m in agreement with you that there’s an imbalance here that we need to address.

    Sending light,
    Dantie

  • Dantie

    Thanks for responding. And to be clear–my post was in support of what you’ve written. I did not conclude from your original blog that you meant to point fingers at the elder sister, but that you in fact are examining the idealized cultural models from film, television etc. that make people want to hold her more responsible than the men who attacked her sister. I’m in agreement with you that there’s an imbalance here that we need to address.

    Sending light,
    Dantie

  • Fallon

    Thank you Dantie. I felt you were in agreement. I just felt I needed to further clarify my points that may not have been clearly stated in the blog. And I think your comment, “television etc. that make people want to hold her more responsible than the men who attacked her sister,” is a great point that I do not think i made a good link to so thank you.

  • Fallon

    Thank you Dantie. I felt you were in agreement. I just felt I needed to further clarify my points that may not have been clearly stated in the blog. And I think your comment, “television etc. that make people want to hold her more responsible than the men who attacked her sister,” is a great point that I do not think i made a good link to so thank you.

  • JEANNIE

    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! your saying that a older sister who abiously did not care at all for her younger sister, who was to “used up” to get paid for sex herself, who ruined her sisters life should get a simple “ok we know ur sorry, so u can go” (kinda like a two year old would get for stealing a cookie!) YOU ARE NUTS! THAT GIRL SHOULD BE SHOT! hell if my sister did that to me if shoot her brains out myself! people like her are the reason for poverty, desese, and discrimination in the world! that girl just killed her younger sister, on perpous. and people who think Ohhhh its not that bad, it happens all the time, she was young she’ll get over it, your stupid, because thats wrong, she will probobly grow up in pain, never wanting to be touched lovingly, never loving anyone because the person she trusted most betrayed her in the worst way. thE OLDER SISTER PROBOBLY KNOWS that when she dies she aint going to a good place ,,,, and good she should feel that way. the men that did it are fucking sick and should burn in hell as well, but they where not the one that offered the little girl up for grabs! that girl should get more then a book thrown at her, ill tell you that much. and yea they where poor, soo what , go t a soup kitchen, contact the goverment , get food stamps, put the little girl in a orphanage, all is soo much better then what she chose to do, its not like the older sister was raised to think that rape is OK because she knew it was illegal, she probobly rememberd what it was like, and for sure knew it was wrong. To sum up, alot of people need to take there heads out of there asses and take a good look arround in the world, there are evil people,no matter what age, and there are innocent ones, who get turned evil because of other peoples (the evil peoples) actions, and if you look past all those actions (that the evil people knowingly commited) you are no better then the (evil) person who commited them. Im not religious but i still think that part of the devil is in that (older sister) girl and she should burn for it along with her little party friends!

  • JEANNIE

    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! your saying that a older sister who abiously did not care at all for her younger sister, who was to “used up” to get paid for sex herself, who ruined her sisters life should get a simple “ok we know ur sorry, so u can go” (kinda like a two year old would get for stealing a cookie!) YOU ARE NUTS! THAT GIRL SHOULD BE SHOT! hell if my sister did that to me if shoot her brains out myself! people like her are the reason for poverty, desese, and discrimination in the world! that girl just killed her younger sister, on perpous. and people who think Ohhhh its not that bad, it happens all the time, she was young she’ll get over it, your stupid, because thats wrong, she will probobly grow up in pain, never wanting to be touched lovingly, never loving anyone because the person she trusted most betrayed her in the worst way. thE OLDER SISTER PROBOBLY KNOWS that when she dies she aint going to a good place ,,,, and good she should feel that way. the men that did it are fucking sick and should burn in hell as well, but they where not the one that offered the little girl up for grabs! that girl should get more then a book thrown at her, ill tell you that much. and yea they where poor, soo what , go t a soup kitchen, contact the goverment , get food stamps, put the little girl in a orphanage, all is soo much better then what she chose to do, its not like the older sister was raised to think that rape is OK because she knew it was illegal, she probobly rememberd what it was like, and for sure knew it was wrong. To sum up, alot of people need to take there heads out of there asses and take a good look arround in the world, there are evil people,no matter what age, and there are innocent ones, who get turned evil because of other peoples (the evil peoples) actions, and if you look past all those actions (that the evil people knowingly commited) you are no better then the (evil) person who commited them. Im not religious but i still think that part of the devil is in that (older sister) girl and she should burn for it along with her little party friends!

  • Heardit

    Wow I bet that wouldn’t of happened. I wish I was there so I could of done something. If only she had a good friend. He/she could of stopped her from ever going there and letting that happened. I mean… They both r beautiful. I blamed those dudes for not having a great punch in the faces I mean I’m 16 and… That’s just not right. Its really the mother’s fault she could of just paid for daycare and ask for some help Or advice from police… Maybe go to school again to get her credit up of something… I really feel sorry for them.. And the mother too for no1 helping her when she struggled

  • Heardit

    Wow I bet that wouldn’t of happened. I wish I was there so I could of done something. If only she had a good friend. He/she could of stopped her from ever going there and letting that happened. I mean… They both r beautiful. I blamed those dudes for not having a great punch in the faces I mean I’m 16 and… That’s just not right. Its really the mother’s fault she could of just paid for daycare and ask for some help Or advice from police… Maybe go to school again to get her credit up of something… I really feel sorry for them.. And the mother too for no1 helping her when she struggled

  • Heardit

    I personally think money’s a waste and that we all should work together not for anything…but for every1’s happiness and if there’s not room for that then we make room we can make life anywhere if we work…. Maybe even on mars

  • Heardit

    I personally think money’s a waste and that we all should work together not for anything…but for every1’s happiness and if there’s not room for that then we make room we can make life anywhere if we work…. Maybe even on mars