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Girl abused by 19 villagers
September 3, 2002 10:50 AM   Subscribe

"A court found 19 inhabitants of the same village guilty of systematically raping or sexually abusing an eleven-year-old girl who had been prostituted by her own father."

Third-world litany? Try Belgium.
posted by donkeyschlong (42 comments total)

 


And to quote James Kincaid again:

Our obsession with sexual and sexualized children is so intense we need to displace, disguise and deny it. To help us out, we have instituted a form of story-telling, a sanctimonious porn-babble designed to eroticize kids, blame it on somebody else and keep the talk going.
posted by y2karl at 11:14 AM on September 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


I'm very glad we got that settled.
posted by UncleFes at 11:16 AM on September 3, 2002


Would someone care to translate the Kincaidian for the rest of us?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:23 AM on September 3, 2002


"We were not aware that we were doing wrong," Mme Sauvage told the court. "We treated my daughter like a proper woman ... like a toy."

WHAT?? i guess that's not shocking compared to what they did, but my god, how did an entire village lose sense of right and wrong?
posted by henriettachicken at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2002


This is what happens in a country where waffles are legalized. VOTE NO TO WAFFLES! PANCAKES IN 2004!
posted by Danelope at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2002


The Guardian doesn't seem to have quite the same facts as this January article from the Associated Press.
posted by etoile at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2002


What would Noam Chomsky do?
posted by jammer at 11:41 AM on September 3, 2002


Third-world litany? Try Belgium

it's interesting how many people in so-called civilized countries always have to assume that horrible abuses like this one happen in Third World countries. Like, these people are dirt poor so they _have_ to be bad and fucked up as well right?
posted by matteo at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2002


Would someone care to translate the Kincaidian for the rest of us?

Oh, spare me. But to dumb it down,

We love stories about sex with kids, the more gruesome the better--details first, sanctimony and moralizing second.
posted by y2karl at 12:03 PM on September 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


I think when we talk about things being more understandable in Third World countries, we're talking more about their non-Westernness rather than their level of poverty. Not that being a non-Western culture causes people to abuse each other. Not at all. But when we run across events like this that are hard to understand... it's easier to accept them when they happen in a culture we don't understand. We figure that the part that allows something like this to happen corresponds with that part of the culture we must not know about. It's simiar to finding out a long-time next-door nieghbor is a serial killer.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:07 PM on September 3, 2002


Heh, that James Kincaid guy is funny. Its not the media, its culture! Much better. The fascination is no different from every other crime fascination.

If history and these news-of-crimes have taught us anything, its that there are people out there who will fetishize absolutely anything and everything. Blame the scattershot nature of evolution, if you blame anything. People have been doing awful things to children since day one (for example, preteen prostitutes were all the rage here in NYC in the late 1800s), do we really need to go off on some war path about media-evils or cultural sickness or some other crackpot theory?

Kids are *cough* "seductive" to adults for the same reason a puppy humps your leg, its in the wiring, it doesn't make it right to screw either one of them.
posted by malphigian at 12:10 PM on September 3, 2002


These are the rarest of crimes in any era and ours is no different. We talk about these things or refuse to talk about them at different times in history. We are at a fever pitch of talking about them right now. The phrase moral panic comes to mind.

If history and these news-of-crimes have taught us anything, its that there are people out there who will fetishize absolutely anything and everything.

Does it ever occur to anyone that our collective morbid and obsessive ruminations on the topic might in fact contribute to such fetishization?
Kincaid's an academic, specializing in the Victorian era--which explains his writing style and his interest in the topic at hand as the Victorians were as obsessed about it as us.

Telling us we should not have sex with kids is useful advice--right up there with you shouldn't drink sulfuric acid as far as something anyone needs to be told.

Why we spend so much time talking and talking about the rarest of crimes and the possible repercussions of this collective obsession are worthwhile subjects. But they are the least likely to explored when there's juicy details for the wallow and the chance to wax poetic over the punishments deserved...
posted by y2karl at 12:36 PM on September 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


y2karl: I think you may have misunderstood (or more likely, I poorly stated what I meant).

I don't disagree in total with anything you just said or what I read from Kincaid... I was making half-hearted attempt to get some Nature mixed in with all that Nurture.

I certainly agree that its a worthy topic that so much time is spent discussing rare crimes (school shootings being another example). However, I have a hard time swallowing that that obsession is causal in nature. These obsessions certainly speak volumes about our culture, but I don't think they are causing, in general, more fetishes or crimes or causing kids to be sexualized (the reason for my previous closing snark).
posted by malphigian at 1:01 PM on September 3, 2002


his is what happens in a country where waffles are legalized.

I blame the cherry-flavored beer.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:20 PM on September 3, 2002


I see your point, malphigian, and tend to agree about the obsessions not being causal to the crimes--for the most part. There was a bit of monkey see, monkey do with the school shootings after Littleton, so I am of no fixed opinion there. As for the current obsessions with attacks on children, it seems to me that such cautionary child pornography being a socially acceptable form of discussing thoughts and feelings that are forbidden, repressed and unconscious in the individual, it seems to follow that talking about such talk--metacommunicating as it were--is very difficult for some people to stay awake enough in the collective to consider.
posted by y2karl at 1:48 PM on September 3, 2002


Why we spend so much time talking and talking about the rarest of crimes

I wouldn't exactly call incest and sexual abuse of children the "rarest of crimes." In fact, I think it's far more common than is reported. I personally have 6 very close friends who were sexually abused by family members/friend of the family before they were 12. And these are just the people I know about. Now, it is true that their fathers weren't pimping them out to the village, but when I've had more friends who have been sexually abused than friends who have been mugged, I would say that perhaps it is less rare than you think.

I agree that the tone of the article is intended to shock and that people read it and promptly forget about it, whereas these two children (and to some extent the baby)will have to live with the irresponsible and damaging actions of their parents for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, these girls are probably going to have to deal with a lot more unwanted attention. When you're learning to have sex in order to survive at the age of 11, you can put out a certain kind of sexual energy that predators will immediately pick up on and exploit.

I don't have any answers, but I do know that pretending it'll go away if we ignore it isn't going to help any of the victims.
posted by witchstone at 1:57 PM on September 3, 2002


A former professor of mine once told me that after Kincaid gave one of the first of his conference presentations on this subject, there was a notable reluctance to sit next to him at dinner later on...

However, he is certainly right that the Victorians were obsessed with this subject--although usually only with the molestation of girls. This makes comparing and contrasting the relative rates of such offenses difficult--the press rarely discussed the sexual abuse of boys, and such cases don't appear to have been prosecuted all that often. See this book for a much less Kincaidian approach. Recent Lewis Carroll scholarship, incidentally, has been de-pedophiling his image, claiming that he primarily scandalized his contemporaries with his relationships with adult women; the most prominent of those defending him has been Karoline Leach.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:10 PM on September 3, 2002


I wouldn't exactly call incest and sexual abuse of children the "rarest of crimes." In fact, I think it's far more common than is reported.

Our experiences differ. I had a friend whose therapist convinced her she had been sexually abused by her father, but had repressed the memories, went through a series of emotional confrontations with him and luckily relented as he was on his deathbed. A lawsuit against said counselor ensued. Rightly so, in my opinion. I had another friend whose mother swears she threw my friend's father for molesting her, the daughter, when she was three--a story she's repeated and repeated over my friend's life. My friend believes this story but has no memories of it per se. True or false, my friend's mother did her daughter no favor by repeating and repeating this heroic narrative, no favor at all. I am afraid that I think these crimes are the rarest of crimes. the most over reported and discussed and a mirror that reflects our collective self image as a child, a helpless, powerless victim, on one hand, and our socially unacceptable feelings of anger and violence toward children on the other. It's not about wishing it would go away for me but rather about looking at our dark side in the need for telling and retelling of these stories. As we are by no means helpless victims in this light, it's not very popular a topic.
posted by y2karl at 2:26 PM on September 3, 2002


Interesting link, thomas j wise, and as long as we're on the subject, Joel Best's Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims and Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern About Child-Victims are worth the Amazonian links as well. I got onto Joel Best after taking my niece trick-or-treating a couple of decades ago--she was the only preteen child to show up at 3/4 of the houses we visited, thanks in no small part to twenty years of poisoned candy urban legendry. But that's a side topic...
posted by y2karl at 2:41 PM on September 3, 2002


It's not about wishing it would go away for me but rather about looking at our dark side in the need for telling and retelling of these stories.

Blaming the likes of Steven King? You've made a good case that these are boogie-man epics, but I don't necessarily see that we can get away from them. This is the monster that's real (however rare, which I don't agree that its all that rare). Remove the sexual element, and these become more stories of the thing in the dark. Remove the children element, and they become the stories of the thing in the dark that adults have to fear. Add it all together and it becomes adult-o-centric thing in the dark stories. We find revulsion at the monster that hunts our children. Why should we remove ourselves from that? Its a mythology that helps make up the nice mix that is "human".

In the movie The Prophecy Satan says to Tom Daggett, "Little Tommy Daggett, always looking under the bed, convinced I was hiding there...and I was." This is the devil hiding under our beds that is real, horrific, and goes to making us protective, angry and willful when we encounter the beast. I see that as a good thing.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:51 PM on September 3, 2002


You seemed to have missed the Halloween connection above, Wulfgar. Twenty years of stories about razor-blades-in-the-apple and eventually people started to put crap in Halloween candy, at least according to Snopes. When I researched it in the 80's, via Best's doctoral thesis, no case had ever been documented. Halloween, the number one adult holdiay by per capita spending, got ruined for children by that myth. It's a sidebar to this discussion but it does illustrate that there are consequences to social narratives. Frightening children with our obsessions with stories about violence done to children, no matter how rare and diminishing these acts are in fact as compared to how all too common they are in the telling, I see not as a good thing.
posted by y2karl at 3:02 PM on September 3, 2002


y2karl, I didn't miss it. We're dealing with a story of an entire village that consented to a horrific crime; a real crime, not a Halloween fable. You can paint the comments here as "over-reactive" all you want (and I won't go too far to disagree with you). But you've said some things that are rather dismissive of the horror engendered by the case in point. We do need, want and tell stories to protect our chidren. The rational folk can tell when the townspeople are screaming "we must think of the children" and when there's a real threat. People do awful things. Telling the tale isn't necessarily frightening children, as using the power of verbal society to alert adults to what society will allow. This isn't voyeurism, as your links imply; its education about the behavior of the species.

(I have a nine year old niece, and I desperately miss the fact that she will never experience Halloween the way I did because of unlikely phantoms. But the beast that would hurt her is out there. It isn't that she knows that, its that I know that that's important.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:17 PM on September 3, 2002


I am afraid that I think these crimes are the rarest of crimes.

We could argue day in and day out about false memories opposed to actual molestation. However, these crimes against children are not rare. From my personal experience--most of the people involved have actual memories of the events and never went to therapy (though many of them should have). My grandmother was conceived by rape. She married my grandfather and they had six children (three girls and three boys). My grandfather molested all three daughters. My uncle molested one of his sisters. My father married my mother (who was molested by many different males in her family, most notably, her step father and her brother). They had three kids (my two older brothers and myself). My older brother molested me. Back on my fathers side of the family--I have 3 cousins (that we know about) who were molested by members of their family. Sadly, only one male in my family is actually serving time for his crimes (he molested girls at church, unrelated to us).

Now, I will say that this is not "normal." But to insinuate that most molestation memories are implanted by uncaring parents or therapists is, in my experience, incredibly false and damaging. I hope these girls are put into a home where their history is understood and they can receive the help they need.

oh--hello to metafilter by the way *waves*
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on September 3, 2002


Howdy!
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:08 PM on September 3, 2002


Put the whole town in rehab... father too. It's the only answer.
posted by Witty at 5:11 PM on September 3, 2002


nadawi: I'm glad to hear from someone with first hand personal experience. Could you enlighten me, just what is meant by molestation? When does sexual curiosity and experimentation become molestation? Is this all age related, or does it have to do with the pressure or force it is accomplished, or, conversely, the degree of resistance that is overcome?
posted by semmi at 7:16 PM on September 3, 2002


But to insinuate that most molestation memories are implanted by uncaring parents or therapists is, in my experience, incredibly false and damaging.

And I made such an insinuation? I merely recited two anecdotes. You recited your anecdotes. Is your experience mored indicative of 'reality' than mine? Who knows? My personal experience of childhood is that all too often we are raised by werewolves. But I don't draw conclusions about the ordinary from my recollection of the extraordinary. Nor do I wave the banner of my unfortunate experiences as a badge of honor. Bad things happen ro people and, with luck and perseverance, people get over them. Or they choose to build an opera around them. I prefer the former course. In my opinion, sanctimonious porn-babble is an apt description for these sort of links and the ensuing threads.
posted by y2karl at 7:32 PM on September 3, 2002


dictionary.com says that molestation is "To subject to unwanted or improper sexual activity. " It can be defined many different ways...but it's not sexual curiosity when one of the parties is asleep and wakes up to the other muffling her and touching her in inappropriate ways. It's not experimentation when one has to threaten physical or emotional harm to get his way. In my case it was also age related. He was only three years older than me, but he was much larger and was always the sibling my parents left "in charge." we (my other brother and i) were taught to obey my eldest brother. i could give you all the gory details and list the numerous threats if you'd like.

basically, when one person uses his or her power (perceived or actual) to coerce another into sexual activity that the other person doesn't want or is too young to understand then it is molestation.
posted by nadawi at 7:34 PM on September 3, 2002


Nor do I wave the banner of my unfortunate experiences as a badge of honor.

I do not feel that my experiences give me any sort of special place in society or a badge of honor. I merely understand that silence is the largest weapon a pedophile has. If he (or she) can keep his victims from talking about it, then his crimes will never come to light. Many would prefer to not have to think about it, unfortunately, i wasn't given the choice. I will continue to discuss my past because I know it does help. My being open and frank and refusing to be ashamed by it has actually given other girls the strength to get help, to get out of their own abusive environments.

Anecdotes like mine can show people that they are not alone. Anecdotes like yours can make someone believe that if she (or he) tells her story then people will think she is just making it up for attention or that she doesn't really remember the events.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2002


Thanks nadawi, I guess the key word is "unwanted". In my childhood I was subjected to a couple of "unasked-for" sexual contacts by strangers where I was more embarrased than afraid to resist, but as y2karl, I moved on without attaching too much meaning to the experiences. Of course, I cannot calculate how I'd be without those experiences behind me.

But y2karl, "Why we spend so much time talking and talking about the rarest of crimes and the possible repercussions of this collective obsession are worthwhile subjects." Looking at the size of your contribution to this thread, indeed why?
posted by semmi at 8:03 PM on September 3, 2002


What your anecdotes show and what my anecdotes show are not that you are morally superior to me, as much as you may want to insinuate that they are, but that we have had different experiences and have drawn different conclusions from them. Neither of us represent the norm. I remain convinced that aspects of the moral panic surrounding this topic, which for me, in this particular case, are salacious stories about sexual attacks on children, like the one here linked, are more about our darker needs than about helping any child.

You come in with anecdotes from your personal history, horrific as they are, and claim moral superiority from your experiences, pat yourself on the back for disclosing them while making insupportable accusations and insinuations of me for not disclosing mine. This is called Making Yourself Right By Making Me Wrong. And it saves how many children?

So, we have created meaning in our lives from our interpetation of our experiences, drawn conclusions on the wall. God or Goddess will be the judge. So be it.
posted by y2karl at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2002


Semmi, sorry, I missed your comment. Why indeed? Because, in this case, I thought that initially I could nip the thread in the bud. It didn't work. Then I got sucked into responding to various insinuations about insinuations I supposedly made and ego stuff like that. That's why.
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on September 3, 2002


Oh, and stories like these, are why as well.
posted by y2karl at 9:04 PM on September 3, 2002


I remain convinced that aspects of the moral panic surrounding this topic, which for me, in this particular case, are salacious stories about sexual attacks on children, like the one here linked, are more about our darker needs than about helping any child.

Please do elucidate, because I think (as you have yet to respond) that it is exactly about protecting the child, and ourselves along with it. You can insinuate that this is a form of pornography all you want, but the burden of proof lies with you, y2karl. Crimes like this happen (a given). They horrify us on an iconic level (we've agreed on this). Is the archetype sexual and progressively pervasive, or evolutionary and defensive? This is the real question at hand. The opera we build forms a cultural consciousness, a norm. From there we establish normal behavior. How is the retelling of a boogie man story going to hurt us? Why nip anything in the bud?
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:54 PM on September 3, 2002


Put the whole town in rehab... father too. It's the only answer.

Better yet...Nuke the site from orbit; its the only to be sure.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:55 PM on September 3, 2002


its the only to be sure.

its the only *WAY* to be sure.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:14 PM on September 3, 2002


The Dark Side of Belgium is child abuse of the most horrific kind. Girl of 11 abused by 19 Belgian villagers:

At the centre of the scandal was a 37-year-old former barman in the southern Belgian village of Sainte-Ode - a remote rural township of 2,000 people dubbed "the paedophile village" by the Belgian media. Under Belgian child-protection laws, his name has only been given as Pascal T.

He was convicted of having sex with his daughter, then 11, and of forcing her into prostitution; and of abusing his younger daughter, then 10.

He was helped by his second wife, Murielle Sauvage, also 37, who worked as a prostitute in the village and initiated the elder girl into the trade.

The former barman was yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison, while Mme Sauvage - who is now estranged from him, and had claimed that he had forced her to corrupt his daughters - was given an eight-year sentence.

The men who abused the elder daughter - including the family doctor, the village lumberjack, the car repair man and the village antique-shop owner among others - were all found guilty of raping a minor and given sentences ranging from six months up to five years. Some of the sentences were partially suspended
.

A suspended sentance for raping a child? Words fail me at the lenience of these punishments. But the cynical side of me isn't shocked. I expect this sort of thing in Belgium. They have a problem with paedophilia. How bad is the problem? Read this about Marc Dutroux. I can't precis this story, but Dutroux is clearly being protected by persons unknown. Persons with incredible influence. He procured children for them.

Everyone here knows the names Julie and Melissa and their unbelievable suffering over a nine month period untill they starved to death. This case has scarred a nation. detroux is expected to face a court early next year.
posted by quarsan at 10:48 PM on September 3, 2002


How is the retelling of a boogie man story going to hurt us?

You breezed past my point about Halloween so easily the first time, Wulfgar. So once again, the stories about the razor blades in the apples, poisoned candies passed out to children were urban legends--they didn't happen. Not, at least, for two decades after they started to appear. Yet, for those two decades we were treated to scenes of hospitals x-raying Halloween candy as a public service while TV anchors moaned It's come to this... on the local news. But guess what? Those x-rays never found anything and it hadn't come to this for at least twenty years.

How did the retelling of this particular boogie man story--the halloween candy poisoner--not hurt us?

By opera I meant personal soap opera--bad things happen to people. My experiences do not make me an expert and the fact that awful things happened to me gives me no moral clout because I was a child at the time they happened. Being a victim of evil acts is not from where I derive my identity,

I am familiar with the stories quarsan has linked and they are horrors. Unlike the stories of razor blades in apples, these other horrors are real. And rare. Why we as a culture obsess and dwell on these real but extremely exceptional stories is a subject worth study and reflection. Are they indicative of a general social or moral trend? I don't think so. Is the continual linking of such stories here a good thing? I don't think so.

That I believe there is a pornographic and salacious element in the retelling of these stories about the worst examples of sexual attacks on children, here and elsewhere, is not something I need to prove.
posted by y2karl at 3:59 AM on September 4, 2002


Jim Hopper (researcher and therapist, with doctorate in clinical psychology) has done extensive research on the subject of child abuse, having dealt with abused men and women for thirteen years. I particularly appreciate his logical approach to the issue of controversies surrounding child abuse statistics. An eye-opening and reputably reliable source.

Statistics regarding proven and alleged cases of sexual assault on juveniles, unbiased (if ever a thing existed), factual. With the numbers on proven cases from the FBI's uniform crime reports and demographic info (pdf) from the census bureau, there's an estimated 51,000 proven cases of sexual assault on children under 18 a year, perpetrated by someone in the family. A little over half of that were 12 and younger. The most recent murder average I could find was from 2000: 6 in 100,000 (15,515 is the incomplete figure). Every statistic source I've found cites murder as the "least frequent violent victimization."

So toss murder in the pot of crimes that are more rare than familial child molestation. As well as juvenile kidnapping. Cannibalization is yet another rarer crime, along with air-plane hijacking. Hate crimes, way more rare. Genocide is thankfully more rare, and ah, bestiality. Bestiality is actually legal in some states I believe, but were it a crime nationwide, it'd still be rarer.

Why the rarity of a crime should affect the attention given it, though, is beyond me. It often but doesn't always coincide with the gravity of a crime, which should be the major gauge. There were 7 million instances of larceny in 2000, and "only" 15,515 non-negligent murders; I would hope that the weightier consideration were given to the crimes which involved people instead of inanimate objects.

With any crime, though-- what good does placing less attention on it do? Crime victims have the individual right to do that, but as a society we are obligated to keep an informative focus on crime. Not out of some unrequited desire to participate in the crime ourselves, or even for entertainment value... how else are we to learn? How else do we substantiate reality from myth? If the details of crime remained within the circle of victims, lawmakers and criminals, that would leave a woeful majority ill-equipped and unaware.

To know truly is to know by causes. -- Francis Bacon
posted by precocious at 4:04 AM on September 4, 2002


,,,we are obligated to keep an informative focus on crime. Not out of some unrequited desire to participate in the crime ourselves, or even for entertainment value... how else are we to learn?

Oh, I don't know, maybe by watching Law And Order - Special Victims Unit, C.S.I,. The Sopranos, Cops, America's Most Wanted, your local evening news and so on and so on... Certainly entertainment value and vicarious thrills have nothing to do with our cultural concerns with crime.

As a reviewer of Joel Best puts it, while these crimes are in actuality neither new, nor epidemic, nor random, the language used to describe them nonetheless shapes both private fears and public policies.

As to what I think is going on, at times, I've spoken of it here, in the poster child example of these hateful threads. With any crime, though--what good does placing too much attention on it do? How do we substantiate reality from myth? It's an open question.
posted by y2karl at 6:21 AM on September 4, 2002


And, actually, the rarest crimes to which I referred are the most gruesome attacks on children by strangers--not familial child molestation. My bad. This link is about the latter: a very sensationalized, unrepresentative and exceptional story that sheds no light on the general topic but which does have a lot of juicy details.
posted by y2karl at 6:41 AM on September 4, 2002 [1 favorite]


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