The story of the N. California gang rape that occurred outside of a homecoming dance is disturbing. If one isn’t bothered by this, one should be. What’s even more bothersome than the number of people involved are the length of the crime and the number of people who did not get involved.

Police posted a $20,000 reward Tuesday for anyone who comes to them with information that helps arrest and convict those involved in what authorities describe as a 2½-hour assault on the Richmond High School campus in suburban San Francisco.

Two teenage suspects have been jailed, but more arrests, as many as 20 total, are expected, according to a police detective.

“We will be making arrests continually as we develop probable cause,” said Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan. “With this number of people implicated in the incident we’re going to be making arrests on an ongoing basis.”

As many as 10 people were involved in the assault in a dimly lighted back alley at the school, while another 10 people watched without calling 911 to report it, police said.

In the most recent update, a seventh person has been arrested in connection with the crime. Thankfully, the victim went from critical condition to being released from the hospital. According to San Francisco’s KTVU, the Alameda County’s (Assistant) District Attorney

. . . has received “expressions of outrage from around the country,” mostly sent by email, about the case.

Probably the most troubling aspect of this crime is that

Another 10 people watched the attack without calling 911, police say.

CNN devoted an article to the bystanders and their role (here). In this particular piece, it was estimated that

as many as 20 people watched or took part as a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten outside a high school homecoming dance, authorities said.

These 20 have been narrowed down to 10 (here). Whether these 10 are part of the 20 who are expected to be arrested is not clear. The issue this raises for me is one of community. In the bystander article, several reason have been put forth as to why none of the bystanders got involved:

“If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then doing nothing becomes the norm.” explains Drew Carberry, a director at the National Council on Crime Prevention.

Carberry said witnesses can be less likely to report a crime because they reinforce each other with the notion that reporting the crime isn’t necessary. Or, he says, witnesses may think another person in the crowd already reported the incident. The responsibility among the group becomes diffused.

“Kids learn at a young age when they observe bullying that they would rather not get involved because there is a power structure,” Carberry adds. . . .

In Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University criminologist Jack McDevitt says he believes the California gang rape was too violent — and lasted too long — to be the result of the bystander effect alone.

McDevitt, who specializes in hate crime research, says the male witnesses may have kept quiet out of fear of retaliation. In his research, witnesses who live in violent communities often fear stepping forward because snitching isn’t tolerated.

Snitching could also bring dangerous consequences to their friends and family. “They don’t believe the system will protect them from the offender,” he said. “They think the offender will find out their name.”

I tend to agree with McDevitt’s assessment that bystander effect cannot be the sole reason.

As one who is part of the church, the body of Jesus Christ, this makes me think about the church and its role in society. Would anyone who is part of the church and who saw this act have taken the initiative to call 911?  It is easy for the church to pray for victims and their families—and I am all for that. But what about the church as a whole being part of preventative and educational programs that work with those who have a tendency to commit acts of violence against others? While the Christ’s body must have boldness to preach and spread the gospel under all circumstances—even the most extreme—what about the boldness of the church to give themselves for those who are hurting, abused, and assaulted? Is getting involved for the sake of another’s life any different than dying for the precious gospel?

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (Jesus, in John 15:13, NKJV)

This, of course, is all easier to write about than to do. My suggestion is not that the church try to save every person from every violent act. But perhaps there may be times such intervention is necessary. If anything, the church must stand as the community of God in the midst of ungodliness. This means to pray for and visit people who are victimized. It means to pray for police officers. It means to pray for judges that justice might be served. And in some cases it just might mean taking action to alleviate another’s assault because that’s what love entails.

May God give the church the boldness to love people in all ways.


First CNN story here.

Updated CNN story here.

CNN article on bystanders here.

San Francisco’s KTVU report here.

[I know this story is a little bit dated. I initially wrote this on JDM – The Weblog (here) but felt it good to post it here.]