Today is Blog Against Sexual Violence day. Go here to check out other bloggers who are blogging on this very important day!
On a Thursday afternoon in March of this year, a Montclair High School special education student was let out of school early – like everyone else in the school – after the scheduled standardized testing for the day was completed. Shortly before noon, she was invited into the home of schoolmate Romal Roberts, where other students (as many as a dozen) were congregating, and she accepted the invitation. She was then sexually assaulted by Roberts and two other male students for several hours. She was forced to perform “a sex act” (the local radio stations are reporting that she was forced to perform oral sex), and was assaulted by the three youths with a broom handle. The assault ended around 4:30 p.m. – nearly five hours after it started.
Some of the other students who were in the house – including Roberts’ cousin – reported that they were playing video games while the three young men were alone with the girl in a bedroom. At least one other student reported hearing “a girl screaming.” Police have confiscated cell phones to see if any recorded pictures or videos of the assault.
Three suspects have been arrested in the case. Two of them are 16 years old, and the third is 18-year-old Roberts, who has entered a not guilty plea against 18 charges of aggravated sexual assault, including first degree sexual assault related to an attack on an individual with a mental impairment.
I’m not really sure how to respond to this. Some local talk-radio jocks were discussing the case and they indicated that Roberts’ not guilty please was entered on the basis that he is a victim as well, as he has a learning disability which prevents him from determining the difference between right and wrong. I would think (although I have no specific knowledge of this) that if this were the case, he would probably also be severely mentally impaired, in which case: what on earth was he doing unsupervised at home?
It doesn’t appear that Roberts is mentally impaired, however. Quotes from neighbors, students and even a teacher identify Roberts as “a good kid,” “helpful,” and “respectful.” No one suggested that Roberts has a disability of any kind. And one would think that would be pertinent information in the situation. Everyone is, however, expressing surprise that Roberts has been accused of the assault, based on the fact that he’s such a good kid.
And if this is true – that Roberts is not impaired – and he still plans to claim that he is a victim because he was forced to commit the assault, I want him explain how he was forced. Did someone hold a gun to his head? Threaten his life at knifepoint? If not, I want him to explain why he felt that anything less than death or severe physical injury could have represented a serious enough threat for him to reduce the importance of another person’s right to safety and respect.
The other two young men who were involved in the incident have not been identified because they are juveniles. It was stated in one of the many articles covering the story that at least one of these two was known for getting into trouble.
Too many details about the case are unavailable: the girl’s disability has not been disclosed, nor has her current health status. Almost nothing is known about the young men involved.
But these things scare the shit out of me:
- Three people found it acceptable to sexually assault someone with diminished mental capacity.
- A houseful of people found it acceptable that a mentally disabled girl was behind closed doors with three boys.
- A houseful of people found it acceptable to ignore signs of distress from that room in favor of playing video games.
- One suspect has pled not guilty, potentially on grounds that he, too, is a victim for being forced to commit the assult.
Just in case anyone was wondering: Sexual assault and rape are not inalienable rights.
(for a collection of articles on the incident, visit Newstin.)