Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Richmond High Homecoming Attack

Saturday night was the annual homecoming dance at Richmond High School in Richmond, California. A 15 year-old girl walked out of the dance and was invited or lured or brought to a secluded area to drink with a group of other people. When she was quite intoxicated, she was attacked and gang raped in an assault that lasted more than two hours. Not only were people present who watched and did nothing, but reportedly people went back into the dance and talked about the attack and others came out to watch. Only after it was over and some of the witnesses were overheard talking about it were emergency personnel called. The victim was found unconscious and admitted to the hospital in critical condition. She is still hospitalized in stable condition.

This is the point in this blog where I usually talk about what a crisis response team ought to be doing for this community. But I have to admit that my first reaction to this story was complete and utter revulsion, to the point that I had to stop reading the coverage to pull myself together. I'm used to helping people who witness violence. But in this instance, the witnesses were accomplices. At first blush, it seems like there isn't anyone (other than, of course, the victim) to help.

In fact, however, that isn't true. There have to be lots of girls at Richmond High School looking over their shoulders this week, wondering how close they have come to being victimized themselves. School can't seem all that safe to them anymore. I'm sure their parents are beside themselves as well, wondering about their daughters' safety and the choices they make that influence that safety. There are boys who are being painted with the same brush as the witnesses and the attackers, and are looking at friends they thought they knew in a whole new light. Administrators are asking themselves what they could have done differently, and teachers who thought they knew their students aren't so sure anymore.

There is plenty of work to do, and that's not even counting the very specialized assistance that the victim will need once her physical wounds have healed. Two suspects have been arrested and a third is being questioned. One of them isn't even a student at the school. I doubt the victim will ever be able to return to Richmond High School. I doubt Richmond High School will ever be the same.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at www.SchoolCrisisConsultant.com
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