20110726

Perpetrators of Gang Rape Released #WTF


Raped at 12 by a gang of footballers – but judges say it’s the victims’ fault and frees them. Now one of the victims talks about the sickening events of that night

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when her and a friend went with six men to a park where 'something terrible' happened

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when her and a friend went with six men to a park where 'something terrible' happened (posed by model)

At first, she is almost too nervous to speak, but with her mother’s gentle encouragement, she tentatively begins to find the words.

She hopes, she says, that ‘people won’t judge her’ or think she is ‘messed up’ or that she is a ‘bad girl’.

‘I’m really not,’ she says pitifully.

That a 13-year-old girl should even feel the need to defend her reputation and character in such a way is perhaps the saddest aspect of what you are about to read.

Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when she and a friend, also aged 12, went with six young men to a park in Reading where ‘something terrible’ happened.

Sadly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what that ‘something terrible’ was.

The six men — all promising local footballers — claimed they thought the girls were at least 16, but they were subsequently convicted of statutory rape because, in the eyes of the law, the girls were unable to give their consent.

Last week, though, the defendants were controversially freed from jail after the Appeal Court ruled that the girls had ‘wanted sex’.

In other words, according to the judgment, Katie and her friend — both just 12, remember — were not really victims at all.

Worse, it gave credence to the view, in the eyes of some, at least, that they were actually to blame for getting the six footballers, aged between 18 and 21, including a former member of Reading FC’s academy, into trouble and ruining their careers.

Already, Katie has received a string of hateful text messages.

‘It’s all your fault,’ said one particularly vile response. Another asked: ‘How can you live with yourself?’

‘It didn’t make me feel very nice,’ says Katie.

The incident in the park, and its aftermath, have been a personal tragedy for Katie, who is now receiving counselling.

But the tragedy spreads wider, for the case also exposes the increasing sexualisation of children and the sickening culture of group sex, which somehow seems to have become acceptable behaviour for a growing number of predatory teenage males.

Dennis De Sousa, aged 19
Jahvon Edwards, aged 19

Two of the six footballers who went to the park with 12-year-old Katie and her friend: Dennis De Sousa (left), aged 19 and Jahvon Edwards (right), aged 19

Anyone who is in any doubt should read the comments of the original trial judge, who said that the six accused standing in the dock in front of him in March this year had treated Katie and her friend  ‘as if they were pieces of flesh’, before sentencing them to two years.

The judge’s words seem especially chilling when you meet Katie.

She is in her school uniform, sitting anxiously in the living room of her home. Her exceptionally pretty features are framed by a sweet brown bob. Katie loves photography and is getting a camera for her birthday. She is doing well at school.

One of her favourite TV programmes is EastEnders. In her bedroom, which is as neat as a new pin, there are CDs of High School Musical and 17 Again, starring teen heart-throb Zac Efron. In the corner is a guitar.

‘I’m not very good,’ she says modestly.

‘Yes, you are,’ her mother says proudly.

Her parents split up when she was a baby, but she sees her dad regularly.

She lives with her mum and step-father, who runs his own business, in a detached house in a ‘picture postcard’ resort in the West Country. They moved there from their native Reading in 2009.

Katie, like many girls her age, has begun to wear make-up. She looks older than 13, but does not seem precocious in any way. On the contrary, when we meet, she is softly spoken and endearingly shy.

The reason her family allowed her to be interviewed is that they — but most importantly, Katie herself —  want other girls to read her account of ‘what really happened’ and learn from it.

‘There is nothing to be scared of,’ her mother tells her before Katie begins to recount, in little more than a whisper, detail by harrowing detail, the chain of events that ended with her going to a park at night with six young men she had never met.

Jahson Downes, aged 20
Luke Farrugia, aged 21

Jahson Downes (left), aged 20 and Luke Farrugia (right), aged 21. All but two of the six footballers come from broken homes

Those events unfolded one weekend in February last year, when Katie and her mother returned to Reading to visit relatives.

During the visit, Katie met the girl who had once been her best friend. We shall call her Lucy.

Lucy, who as we shall see is certainly old beyond her years, invited Katie to a ‘sleepover’, and in the evening they both attended a family birthday party in a local hall.

Soon, Lucy began exchanging text messages with a boy, or rather a young man, whose number she had obtained three weeks earlier (she told him she had found his number on someone else’s phone and ‘wanted to get to know him’). The young man’s name was Jahvon Edwards.

Edwards, 19, used to play for Henley Town and was now a part-time football coach. Lucy told him she was 16.

She received the first text from Edwards at around 8pm. The ‘conversation’ went like this:

Edwards: ‘Out in my car. You?’

Lucy: ‘Who you with? Should we come too?’

Edwards: ‘Five friends.’

Lucy: ‘We can have three each.’

Edwards: ‘Yes ... Who you having?’

Lucy: ‘Whoever wants me?’

Shortly afterwards, Jahvon Edwards and his ‘five friends’ pulled up outside the hall, where the family gathering was still in full flow, in two Vauxhall Corsa cars.

Lucy then asked Katie to come outside with her.

‘I went with her because I didn’t want to leave her on her own,’ says Katie.

She says she wasn’t aware of what Lucy had told Edwards in the text messages. Katie reluctantly got into one vehicle, Lucy in the other.

Katie says she went along because she thought they were only going for a short drive and would be back in ‘five minutes’.

Lucy’s parents (her father is a driver, her mother works in an office) were unaware the girls had left.

When they stopped at a garage in Reading, the girls got out and Katie says she started to cry.

‘I told Lucy I was scared and that I wanted to go back, but she said there was no way we would be able to on our own because we had gone too far.’

Courtney Amos, aged 20
Ashley Charles, aged 20

Courtney Amos (left), aged 20 and Ashley Charles (right), aged 20. In the run up to their court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes

So Katie returned to the car. She and Lucy were taken to a local park, where they went to the toilet before splitting up. Katie says she saw Lucy disappear behind a tree, from where she then began calling Edwards and his friends over ‘one by one’ for sex.

Shocking? Degrading? Yes. But it was not the first time 12-year-old Lucy had indulged in such activities.

When the case subsequently came before Reading Crown Court earlier this year, it emerged that Lucy had done ‘exactly the same thing’ at least three times before. There was also a fourth occasion while Edwards and his co-defendants were awaiting trial.

Indeed, ‘shocking’ and ‘degrading’ hardly do such revelations justice.

Meanwhile, back in the park, Katie went and sat on a bench and her eyes began to well up again. One of the footballers wouldn’t leave her alone, however, and kept pestering her to perform a sex act on him, which, legally, is still classed as rape.

‘I kept saying “No, no”, but he kept on, so I gave in,’ she says, her voice faltering.

‘I have never done anything like that before, and I would never do it again. That’s the truth.’

Cynics might doubt her words. I do not. Talking to Katie left me utterly convinced that this was a girl — however foolish and naive she might have been — who was telling me the raw, simple truth.

Afterwards, she and Lucy were driven back to town and dropped off near to where Lucy lived. By now, Lucy’s parents had realised the girls were missing and had called the police. They were found wandering along a lane in the vicinity of her home at 2am.

Katie was reunited with her mother at the police station and, for the third time that night, broke down in tears.

‘I cuddled her and told her everything was going to be all right,’ her mother says.

The following day, Katie and Lucy were interviewed by detectives.

Jahvon Edwards, who lives with his mother in Reading, was subsequently arrested and charged with rape, along with Dennis De Sousa, 19, Jahson Downes, 20, Ashley Charles, 20, Courtney Amos, 20, and Luke Farrugia, 21.

All but two of them are from broken homes.

In the run-up to their crown court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes about sex and prostitutes on Twitter.

Take de Sousa, whose own father spent much of the Eighties and Nineties in and out of prison for crimes including affray and conspiracy to supply drugs.

‘Love me some **** (the name given to a particular sex act) and I LOVE a woman that likes to do it,’ he tweeted, followed by: ‘Like what you see, but don’t touch it hoe (street slang for prostitute).’

Amos, brought up by his mother and who, until his rape conviction, was hoping to pursue a career as a children’s football coach.

He re-tweeted this offering from a friend: ‘I use to be a shy boy when I was young, until I lost my virginity and started **** ******** (slang for pleasuring a woman) females like no tomorrow.’

Or Charles, who has a conviction for assault, and used the ‘hashtag’ (a keyword used to categorise a Tweet) TheJoyOfTeenSex — a reference to the Channel 4 series of the same name. He later describes what he might like to do to a friend’s mother.

These, then, are some of the individuals who had sex with two 12-year-old girls in a park on the weekend of February 20, 2010.

Earlier this week, three of the six, who became friends while studying sports science at the same Reading college, agreed to meet the Mail at a bar in the town centre.

It was apparent that they see themselves, not the girls, as the real victims of what happened that night. Their conviction remains but their sentences have now been suspended, and they will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years.

‘Our lives have been ruined, and none of us are now able to go on and follow the careers that we would have chosen for ourselves,’ said de Sousa, who now lives in a council flat with his father.

‘I feel we were tricked into going to the park with them’ (a reference to the fact that Lucy claimed she was 16 on her Facebook page).

De Sousa, accompanied by Edwards and Downes, says he felt disgusted when he discovered the truth.

‘I’ve got a little sister that age’, he said.

But isn’t the crux of the matter that he and his five friends were quite prepared to take two young girls, regardless of how old they thought they may or may not have been, to a park with the specific intention of having sex with them?

Repeat: Six boys. Two girls.

The judge who jailed them certainly thought so.

‘It is clear to me,’ he told them, ‘that all of you were utterly reckless in what you did that night. Those girls were utterly unknown to you.

‘You saw those girls as utterly willing sexual partners, which they were, and behaved towards them as if they were simply pieces of flesh, not people.’

The Appeal Court took a more lenient view. You can be the judge of who was right.

20110725

To Cover Up or Not to Cover Up

From the Babe and the Breast:

The Real Reason Not to Cover Up Nursing Mothers (By Martha Neovard)

I was browsing the internet last night at about 3 am, while lying in bed and listening to the crashing of a distant storm, when I came across a recent blogpost, by a woman named loralee (See the blog). The blog itself was fantastic. The author openly admitted she has a level of discomfort when confronted with the sight of an openly nursing mom and baby. Her first reaction is kneejerk, a "cover that up" level of discomfort. Her second reaction is to check herself, take some deep calming breaths, assure herself it is well within the dyad's rights to eat wherever, whenever, no matter what implement they are using to do so. Yes, the article was fantastic, level-headed, pensive, and provoking. A very well-written piece, and after I read it I was left with a sense of relief and satisfaction. So then, stupidly, I moved on to the comments section.


Oy vey.


"I support any mom who wants to breastfeed, and anywhere she wants to, but my old-school upbringing about ‘good girls’ don’t show their boobs in public keeps getting in the way."


"I read your friends’ posts Loralee and I’m sorry, but their posts just made me feel angry. I do NOT agree with what these women feel is their motherly right. Fine, breast feed, go ahead, but cover up first! I feel sorry for the children, who are not theirs, subjected to quite honestly, a traumatic and disgusting event! NO ONE should EVER be subjected to having to see that. I agree, women should NOT have to go to a bathroom, or leave the room, or do it in private. BUT I do feel absolutely, they they CANNOT and SHOULD NEVER be LEGALLY allowed to whip out their tits..." (There is more to this shocking quote, but I will omit the rest, as it would certainly distract from the point of this post.)


"I never comment on anything that can be controversial. Ever. That being said…I nursed all my children and when necessary I did so in public however, it was never obvious. It doesn’t have to be. Nursing our babies is a natural thing but we can be discreet. My youngest child is 29 years old so that was quite a while ago. My daughter-in-law nursed all the grands and she too was discreet. There’s nothing wrong with not putting “it” out for all to see. Just saying…discreet."


I repeat. Oy vey.


For the record, I would never criticize or look down on a woman who wants or needs to use a nursing canopy to feel comfortable nursing her baby out in a public place. In fact, if that is what a mother needs in order to breastfeed when her baby wants/needs to, then I am right behind her, holding the straps (figuratively of course, otherwise I'd be breathing down her neck). They are a useful device, and certainly they are valuable to mothers everywhere. But I digress. The real point of this article is to explain WHY nursing uncovered is so important to breastfeeding moms everywhere, and why they should defend their blanketless state with emphatic arm-waving and raised voices. I repeat, I am NOT opposed to the option of covering whilst nursing, however I am opposed to the idea that some sort of cover is a NECESSITY for breastfeeding in public, and that all moms should use some kind of object to cover themselves so no one can see what they are doing.


Now you are thinking, oh brother here we go. Entereth the raging feminist with her trident of women's rights! No, actually. My concern is not the comfort of wee babies, or overheating, or woman and child rights, or even the reckless abandonment of muted colours in nursing covers (although these do factor in as well). No, instead my concern has to do with brain function and future generations.

Wha?


You see, as Kathleen Kendall Tackett points out in this 2009 article, breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. That means that no matter how many times we discuss it, how much we read about it, and how much we study pictures of it, we cannot teach our bodies how to do it. We need to be in close proximity to breastfeeding in order to understand the concepts associated with positioning, latch, swallowing, and multiple other small factors that go into breastfeeding successfully. It is something that Nature designed us to learn from our mothers, or from the community of women we interact with daily. Nature intended us to see other women breastfeeding their babies, and to internalize that knowledge to use with our own children. It is not something we can comprehend from the pages of a book, or from staring blearily at a nurse lecturing on the importance of breast milk.


As Kendall-Tackett states in her article, learning to breastfeed is much like learning to ride a bike. So, picture this. You have never seen a bike up close in your life. Maybe you saw it in a movie, but the bike was turned so you could only see the wheel, or the person riding it was mostly offscreen, or they just cracked weird bike jokes the whole time. You know that in 10 months time, you will be in a bike race. This bike race will be one of the most important events of your life. For months, people talk at you about riding a bike. Some people tell you to make sure to put your weight in the back, others say the front. Some say peddle swiftly, others say peddle backwards. Some say grip the handlebars just so, others say don't touch the handlebars, because that didn't work for them. You watch a couple videos about bike-riding, but they seem overly technical, and a lot of the jargon flies right over your head. You ask your parents, but their only reply is "We never rode a bicycle, just give it a try and hope it works for you." You go out in public to garner some information, but almost everyone who rides a bicycle rides them behind very tall hedges that you cannot see through. You feel a bit panicky, and a lot apprehensive. At last, the day of the race arrives. You wobble up to the starting line, someone hands you a bike, you climb on hesitantly, and they give you a good shove down a very steep hill and yell "YOU'LL FIGURE IT OUT!!!"


Metaphor much? Yes, breastfeeding these days is a lot like that. We don't see it done. We get some bits and bites of information in the months leading up to birth, then when the moment arrives, someone puts the baby on you and says "Okay, go!" How are you to know what this should all look like? What should it feel like? And really, how are we to know?

The thing is, most of us can't learn this from our mothers. We lost generations of right-brained hereditary knowledge to aggressive marketing and bottle-feeding. For those moms who do come from a family where breastfeeding was the norm, is it still enough to internalize the breastfeeding knowledge we need? How old were you when your youngest sibling was weaned?


Now what if everywhere we went, we saw moms nursing their babies, comfortably and openly? Every time we witness a friend, relative, or complete stranger breastfeeding their baby, our brains subconsciously make notes. So when it comes to our turn, our brain gathers up what we know, and we remember that the baby went THIS WAY, and mother held him just so. We may have even had the opportunity to ask questions. This is how we learn, and how we will know.


I think there is no better illustration for the necessity of seeing breastfeeding than this story, found in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:


"In a zoo in Ohio, a female gorilla was born and raised in captivity, got pregnant and had a baby gorilla. On the day she had her baby, she didn't know what to do. She had never seen another gorilla nurse, and she had no concept of breastfeeding. Sadly, the baby gorilla died.
When she became pregnant again the gorilla's keeper called The La Leche League and had volunteer nursing moms come down to the zoo and nurse their own babies in front of the pregnant momma gorilla. At first the gorilla ignored them, but as her delivery date grew closer she became very interested. When the baby gorilla was born the momma gorilla forgot all that she'd learned and started to freak out. The keeper quickly called the La Leche League and another volunteer rushed over and slowly showed the momma gorilla what to do. "She brought her baby's chest to her chest, slowly cradled the baby's head in her left arm, held her breast with her right hand, and tickled the baby's lips with the nipple to get the baby to open his mouth. Then she pulled the open-mouthed baby toward her breast and with one rapid arm motion, got the cooperative baby quickly onto her breast. The gorilla watched, mimicking the moves step by step until, with a nearly audible sigh of relief, the gorilla looked down at her chest and saw her baby feeding happily for the first time."(p 29).


So I ask of you, when next you see a mother breastfeeding her baby without some sort of covering implement, please give her a big smile and bring yourself and your child closer to see. I can guarantee she will smile back, and most will comfortably explain to your child what they are doing. You are doing your child a favour, so that when she has her own baby, the imprint of this encounter will rise in her brain, and assist her instincts in learning to breastfeed your grandchild. If your child is male, he will internalize how to assist and support his partner in her breastfeeding journey. Please, no more calls to "cover up". Anyone who cries for a cover over the beautiful sight of a nursing mother and child is unwittingly and devastatingly calling for the destruction of womanly knowledge, and the handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders.


(Blogger's notes: We are not yet to the point where we see breastfeeding moms everywhere and anywhere, where we are able to internalize by watching. But luckily for us, Nature always has a back-up system where one system fails. Please check out Biological Nurturing and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's article here to learn about instinctual breastfeeding, and how best to trigger both mom and baby's instincts to achieve a strong latch. Also please consider attending a breastfeeding support group meeting, like La Leche League during your pregnancy. Many women breastfeed openly at these meetings, and they are a great resource both for right-brained knowledge garnering, and for creating a support network, and meeting new mommy friends!)




Find your own breastfeeding privacy scarf on Amazon.

20110724

The Business of Sex Tourism

This article from the New York Times, about sex tourism in Brazil, is a reminder that as a culture we must strive to not objectify people nor to take advantage of them. The link to read it on the New York Times website is here.



Allegations Link U.S. Companies to Brazilian Sex Tourism
by Barry Meier
Published: July 8, 2011


The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation of sports fishing expeditions in the Amazon that may have been used as covers for Americans to have sex with underage girls, according to newly filed court papers.



The investigation and two related actions — a parallel criminal inquiry in Brazil and an unusual lawsuit filed in federal court in Georgia — could provide a rare look at the business operations of the multibillion-dollar international sex tour industry, which has increasingly focused on Brazil.



“Brazil is taking over from Thailand as a premier sex tourism vacation” spot, said Kristen Berg, an official of Equality Now, an advocacy organization in New York that helped bring the lawsuit in Georgia.



That lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of four Brazilian women who claim that they were coerced as minors to serve as prostitutes for Americans on Amazon fishing expeditions operated by an Atlanta-area businessman. One of the women said that she was 12 years old at the time.



Ms. Berg said the lawsuit was the first time that a federal law, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, had been used to seek damages from someone accused of operating sex tours.



On Thursday, the defendant in that case, Richard W. Schair, filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be stayed. The motion cited continuing criminal investigations in the United States and Brazil.



In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Schair, who operates an Atlanta-area real estate business, said that allegations that he was involved in child sex tours were untrue. He declined to discuss specifics of the inquiries.



“The allegations are false,” he said. “The facts will prove that.”



Solomon L. Wisenberg, a lawyer in Washington who represents Mr. Schair in connection with the federal criminal investigation, said he was confident that his client would not face charges. The status of the investigation is unclear, as Justice Department officials declined to comment.



Ms. Berg, of Equality Now, said that the group helped bring the Georgia lawsuit because it was looking for precedent-setting cases involving child sex tourism overseas.



She said that she and lawyers from a major firm, King & Spalding, which is working on the case pro bono, traveled to Brazil to interview prospective witnesses, including young women.



Both the lawsuit and the federal criminal investigation are apparently fallout from a separate lawsuit filed in 2007 by Mr. Schair against another operator of Amazon fishing tours, Philip A. Marsteller.



In that action, Mr. Schair charged that Mr. Marsteller had slandered him by telling people that he supplied clients on his fishing tours with prostitutes and drugs. Mr. Marsteller stood by his comments and, as part of his defense, sought statements from young women in Brazil as well as employees of Mr. Schair’s company, called Wet-A-Line Tours. The company is no longer operating.



In 2008, the two men settled the case, with Mr. Schair paying token compensation to Mr. Marsteller, said Kevin Buchanan, a lawyer in Dallas who represented Mr. Marsteller. Mr. Buchanan said that information that came up during the lawsuit led federal officials to begin an investigation of American business connections to child sex tourism in Brazil.



Several news reports in recent years have indicated that Mr. Schair was the subject of criminal investigations both here and in Brazil. But the filing Thursday in conjunction with the Georgia lawsuit was the first time the investigations were publicly acknowledged.



According to the court papers filed by Mr. Schair, federal prosecutors in Miami sent a grand jury subpoena to his company in 2009 asking for, among other things, customer lists. Another document shows that prosecutors notified his ex-wife in December that investigators had obtained information indicating that she was “involved with a company and/or an individual who may have engaged in child sex tourism in Brazil.”



Asked about the documents, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department in Miami, where the inquiry is based, declined, as a matter of policy, to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.



Translations of Brazilian documents, attached by Mr. Schair to his filing, show that he is charged in a proceeding there with the sexual exploitation of minors. He has denied the accusation.



Mr. Schair made the filing on Thursday on his own behalf.



According to the lawsuit filed last month, Mr. Schair or his employees or customers recruited young girls at a social club along the Amazon to join them on a fishing boat, where the girls were coerced into sex acts and paid.



The Amazon River in Brazil is a particularly attractive area for fishing enthusiasts because it is a home to a hard-fighting species called the peacock bass.



Click here to read more on this issue from Equality Now.

20110708

Kitchen Cleaning Step #1: The Sink

  1. Fill sink to the rim with very hot water; add one cup regular bleach. Soak for one hour.
  2. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Scrub with Ajax, Bon Ami, or baking soda.
  4. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
  5. Shine with Windex or another glass-cleaning spray. Dry thoroughly.

20110707

Kitchen Cleaning Step #736: Keep up

When cleaning the kitchen always start with the sink.



A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spotless, too.



Every Day
  • Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
  • Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
  • Wipe down the counters (one minute).
  • Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).
Every Week
  • Mop the floor (five minutes).
  • Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances (10 minutes).
  • Wash the dish rack (four minutes).
  • Wipe the switch plates and phone (one minute).
  • Wipe the inside of the garbage can (one minute).
Every Season
  • Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator (30 minutes).
  • Empty and clean the insides of the utensil drawers (15 minutes).
  • Scrub down the cupboard exteriors (30 minutes).
  • Clean the stove-hood filter (10 minutes).
  • Really clean the sink.

20110701

How to deal with telemarketing calls: Be nice

This morning I received an unsolicited call. Here is how it went down:

Telemarketer: May I speak to ****?
Me: There is no one here by that name.
Telemarketer: Please allow 48 hours for your number to be removed from our list. Thank you and have a good day.
Me: Thank you, have a good weekend.
Telemarketer: Thank you, have a good holiday.
Me: Thank you, have a good month.

That is how it is done. I cannot be out "niced" by anyone, especially on the phone.