As more details emerge of the alleged horrific gang rape of an 18-year-old woman at a Brooklyn playground — after the victim’s dad was said to have been chased from the scene by gun-wielding teens — any explanations of what happened, and why her father was so unsuccessful in summoning help, have become even murkier.
“Something does not seem to add up,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district covers the playground, told the New York Times on Monday. He also noted that he was troubled by “several unanswered questions as it relates to the behavior of the father.”
On Monday, four teenagers, ranging in age from 14 to 17, were charged with first-degree rape — two after being turned over to police by their parents, who saw their faces in a nearby deli’s surveillance video that was released during the investigation. A fifth suspect, whose age has not been released, was taken into custody on Tuesday.
Despite the confusions in the case, the basics remain the same, according to reports — that the 18-year-old suffered a violent attack at a playground near her home. The father said the teenagers chased him off with a gun and that he returned to throw a bottle at them but was forced away again. When he did finally return with police, the attackers were gone and his daughter was there half-clothed. It is still not clear exactly how many of the attackers had sex with the young woman.
The woman did not report seeing a gun, the suspects have denied having one, and no gun has been recovered near the scene. The father and daughter were heavily intoxicated during the attack, according to the New York Times report. Other details that have emerged: The father lost custody of his daughter when she was 2, and she was raised in another state, “out west,” by an adoptive family, according to an official involved with the case. “She reconnected with him last summer.” On the night of the assault, detectives say, she and her father bought some beer nearby and went into the playground to drink together at around 9 p.m.
Locals have alleged that the father has been a known alcoholic for years, and that he had younger children whom he often neglected. During the attack on his daughter, the dad, who did not have a cellphone, apparently ran into two nearby delis asking for a phone, without any explanation. The clerk at one of them refused to help because he had no idea what was going on and told the New York Times the father appeared to be drunk: “How he look, how he act, how he sway.”
On Monday, before these new details were released, Alan Lipman, director of the Center for the Study of Violence, told Yahoo Parenting that any father in this situation would certainly be “going through rage and guilt and trauma of having been there, and then a sense of rage and humiliation. … That’s a trauma in and of itself, seeing your daughter about to be brutalized. Then there’s the issue of how he deals with his daughter going forward, how he will face her.”
That final question seems even more troublesome a day later — as does the idea of how the young woman’s recovery will be affected by the relationship with her father and by his actions during the attack.
“The situation will make her healing significantly more difficult,” Barbara Greenberg, a teen and adolescent clinical psychologist, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Regarding how people respond to trauma, looking at how their caretakers respond to it is almost equally important to the nature of the trauma itself.” This young woman, she says, “already had tremendous trust issues, and has been trying to reconnect to her father,” but while trying to do that, “gets gang raped, and her father is unsuccessful in helping her because he’s drunk.” Inevitably, Greenberg says, all her issues of trust will be compounded.
Lipman concurs, telling Yahoo Parenting, “While we do not yet know the circumstances that led to this reconnection, the instabilities, uncertainties and fear associated with [it] and to these life circumstances may be significantly exacerbated by such an attack.” He adds that her father’s substance issues, “if confirmed, further indicate and limit the resources that she has and has had to rely on in this combined experience of violence, deprivation, vulnerability, and the lack of protection needed under each of these circumstances.”
The young woman, Greenberg urges, “needs help immediately, and the sooner she gets it, the less dreadful her PTSD will be, although she won’t escape it.” She further notes that if the young woman were 17 instead of 18 and a legal adult, then the setup of the situation alone — of her being out drinking with her father on the night of the attack — “would be a Child Protective Services case.”
(Photo of Brooklyn playground crime scene, above: AP Photo)