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.