Four Charged in Richmond, Homecoming Gang Rape

The gang rape of a 15-year-old girl after her homecoming dance in Richmond, CA, this week is shocking enough, but the realization that 25 or more people witnessed the crime–with no one helping the victim or calling the police–is even more horrifying. So far, four people are under arrest with more indictments likely to follow. One of the perpetrators is a 21-year-old male, and the other three are teenagers themselves. The victim was walking out of her homecoming dance at Richmond High School to meet her father to go home when a few other teens invited her to drink with them in the school’s courtyard where she became intoxicated, and a short time later she was assaulted. “This was a barbaric act. I still cannot get my head around the fact that numerous people either watched, walked away or participated in her assault,” Lt. Mark Gagan said Tuesday. “It’s one of the most disturbing crimes in my 15 years as a police officer.”

Tragic incidences like this aren’t as uncommon as we’d like to think. Here are a few statistics from various sources on teen violence and underage drinking:

Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)

In 2005, 23.4% of youths ages 12-17 reported that, in the past year, they had gotten into a serious fight at school or work.
(SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

In 2005, 7.4% of youths ages 12-17 reported that, in at least one instance, they had attacked others with intent to seriously hurt them.
(SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

Nationwide, 18.5% of high school students had carried a weapon (gun, knife, or club) one or more days in the last 30 days. The prevalence of having carried a weapon was higher among male (29.8%) than female (7.1%) students.
(2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance)

During the past year, 9.2% of students nationwide had been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend (dating violence).
(2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance)

During the past year, 7.9% of students nationwide had been threatened or injured with a weapon (gun, knife, or club) on school property one or more times.
(2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance)

Nationwide, 6.0% of students had not gone to school on 1 or more days of the last 30 days because they felt they would be unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.
(2005 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance)

The scenarios cited above, as well as ones that aren’t so extreme, point to the desperate need for teens to know how to set boundaries and develop a compassionate heart. The boys’ brutality shows a complete disconnect of empathy, and it’s well-documented that underage drinking often plays a major role in risky and violent behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the brain’s frontal lobe is the control center of our emotions and the teenage brain is a work in progress. In a study by Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, she and her team:

“scanned brain activity while they identified emotions on pictures of faces displayed on a computer screen. Young teens, who characteristically perform poorly on the task, activated the amygdala, a brain center that mediates fear and other ‘gut’ reactions, more than the frontal lobe. As teens grow older, their brain activity during this task tends to shift to the frontal lobe, leading to more reasoned perceptions and improved performance.”

The frontal lobe contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex, and the dopamine system is associated with reward, attention, long-term memory, planning, and drive. If we are to avoid such disastrous consequences like the one in Richmond, teachers, parents, and other levels of youth-oriented society need to grow in their understanding of how the teenage brain functions and how emotions effect behavior. Further, we must collaborate with students and youth on setting healthy boundaries and making wise choices. LifeBound’s People Smarts for Teenagers program is designed to help students gain emotional and social skills such as empathy, self-awareness and emotional well-being and can be used in a variety of teaching platforms. Questions:

How can we spark a national dialogue on emotional and social intelligence among teens and young adults so that they can better gauge how their choices will impact themselves and those around them?

How can we begin to raise the value of social and emotional intelligence in schools to complement academic pursuits, since both are crucial to human development and indicators of success in school, career and life?

How can we as a society of educators, community leaders, parents and law enforcement officials foster, among students, positive peer pressure, role modeling and environmental strategies to prevent destructive decisions and help teens set a healthier, safer course for their lives?

ABC News
RICHMOND, Calif. (Oct. 28) — Manuel Ortega, a 19-year-old former Richmond High School student, has been charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, rape in concert [gang rape] and rape with violence, according to Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is going to ask for a life sentence for Ortega, Gagan said. His bail has been set at $1,230,000

The other three suspects are juveniles, ages 15, 16 and 17, but are to be charged as adults, and the D.A.’s office will seek life sentences for the trio, Gagan said.

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2 Responses to “Four Charged in Richmond, Homecoming Gang Rape”

  1. Dave Braden says:

    Wow Carol, these stats are scary, I have young children, and as a father, this really intimidates me. Thanks for making me think!

  2. carol carter says:

    Thanks for your feedback. As a parent, you can courageously ask your kids about ways in which they see intolerance and take steps to right it. You can ask them where they see people being angry or violent and they take steps to show them how to be even-tempered. You can ask them where they see people who are hurting or depressed and ask them what actions they are taking to help those people to get specific help.

    Parents are the most important coaches young people have. Your actions model the options for your child. I’m glad that you are willing to think through how you can be part of this solution. You can be and so can your precious kids.

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