I've been in and around the social services field for a long time, given how old I am. I don't shock easily anymore. But the story fifteen-year-old K.J., an intellectually disabled high Manhattan teenager, and her sexual assault at Martin de Porres Academy, shocked me.
Martin de Porres Academy is a school in Elmont, New York for juvenile offenders and students with special needs. According to her family attorney K.J. was sexually assaulted by three Grade 9 males in her science class last May. The assault lasted approximately ten minutes and took place under a desk. The males others forced her to perform oral sex and tried to sodomize her, while another male student danced on the desk http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/girl-15-gang-raped-class-suit-article-1.1238721http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/girl-15-gang-raped-class-suit-article-1.1238721. She was hit on the head repeatedly when she tried to escape.
There are several things that make this horrific crime even worse:
- There was a teacher in the room.
- When she reported this to the school, they didn't report it to the police.
- Martin de Porres Academy eventually asked the police that the investigation that the family opened be closed and that they be allowed to handle the incident with "training and additional counseling". The family wasn't told for several months about this for several months
- The Nassau County District Attorney was apparently aware of the investigation as it was going on, but did nothing
- The investigation *was* dropped and the boys went unpunished
How did this all happen? Prepare to be even more disgusted.
K.J.'s IQ is below 50, which in New York is legally considered too low to consent to sexual activity. Other states have similar laws, and I'm in favour of them for people with IQ levels below a certain point. It's a safeguard against abuse from caregivers. However, an even more fundamental consent law didn't protect K.J., giving this case, as Judy Molland points out at http://www.care2.com/causes/rape-is-rape-unless-you-have-a-low-iq.html, a distinctly misogynistic feel.
K.J. told police that she told the boys "No" and "Stop". And anyone that feels that an IQ below 50 is too low *not* to express consent to something in which one finds physical and/or emotional displeasure or pain hasn't done much work with the demographic, because even non-verbal folks can express it with no question as to what the individual means.
There were 13 people enrolled in that science class at Martin de Porres Academy, and they can't have all been absent that day. Even if the Martin de Porres Academy teacher wasn't paying attention, there must have been other students witnessing this. If K.J. said, "No" and "Stop", someone else must have heard it. And "No" means "No". I don't care if your IQ is 50 or 150.
However, the police apparently weren't interested in investigating whether someone else heard her say "No", because the boys that assaulted her all had IQs below 50 as well. This made the sexual activity consensual in their eyes.
Police: "It was not something you could arrest someone for"
Kudos to K.J.'s family for filing a lawsuit against Martin de Porres Academy in the Manhattan Supreme Court. The teacher who was in the classroom was fired but that's not good enough.
And good for family attorney Madeleine Lee Bryer for calling bullshit on the police department's stance that this wasn't something in which they should be involved. As she points out, one of the boys knew right from wrong to the extent that he was found culpable for robbery. That creates enough reasonable doubt to investigate to what extent they all recognized the inherent wrongness in what they did that day and how it affected their actions.
Even if their disabilities prevented them from understanding that what they did in that Martin de Porres Academy classroom was wrong, there's still no excuse for it. They don't get a free pass. Yes, the justice system has to handle that level of disability and that level of understanding a bit differently than someone with a full understanding of those kind of actions and their effects. But the crime still needs to be investigated fully and and dealt with in an appropriate manner.
All parties in this terrible story are entitled, as citizens, to that. But none of them got it.
Martin de Porres Academy, the Legal System...Lots of Blame to Go Around
Why? I believe it's because no one wanted to do a difficult investigation and do all the paperwork, ultimately. And because these teens are young, disabled (and, in at least one boy's case, a criminal), it was easy to get away with just sweeping all of this under the rug.
But there are four young futures on the line here (not that I'm trying to overly empathize with the boys, please don't misunderstand me...but they're still young teenagers. They did a *horrible* thing, but they still have futures), And the lack of regard by multiple systems for these kids, especially for K.J. right after her assault, makes me sick. Sick.
Well done, New York State. Between your group home scandals, your accessible taxi dramas, and now this...travesty at Martin de Porres Academy, you've thoroughly disgusted me.
More information: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/shrt-article-1.1262564