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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

8-year-old girl shunned by family after rape sparks outcry

July 25, 2009

PHOENIX (AP) — Lured by promises of chewing gum and raped in a shed by four boys barely older than her, an 8-year-old Liberian girl is now in foster care and living with strangers instead of the family that raised her and brought her to America...

The alleged sexual assault in Phoenix has sparked an international outcry, reaching all the way to the president of Liberia, the home country of the girl's family and the four young suspects.

"They should help that child who has been traumatized and they should make sure that they work with the U.S. law authorities to see what can be done about the other young boys who have committed this offense," Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told CNN...

Experts who study the developing world say the parents' reaction highlights the struggles of many women around the globe.

"[Women are] always being blamed for everything," said Monica Westin, founder of World of Hope International, which promotes human rights. "It's always the girl's fault. There's no gender equality."

Westin said West African refugees often keep in touch with friends and relatives back home and try to maintain their culture. Many have grown up uneducated and find it hard to change their customs...

A 14-year-old boy was charged Wednesday as an adult with two counts of sexual assault and kidnapping, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said. He appeared in court Thursday and was being held without bond...

The other boys — ages 9, 10, and 13 — were charged as juveniles with sexual assault. The 10- and 13-year-old boys also were charged with kidnapping, the office said Thursday.

Police say the girl's father told a police officer and a Child Protective Services worker that he doesn't want her anymore.

..."What you're seeing here is the very long legacy and reach of the violence that took over Liberia... When you're dealing with children this young, they're mimicking actions they've seen, they've heard about, they've grown up with."

President Sirleaf said she would ask Liberian Ambassador Milton Barnes to work with the family and Phoenix authorities to ensure the girl's protection.

...Ben Haines, who lives across the street from the building, said he was disturbed that the 8-year-old girl's parents supposedly blamed the assault on her.

"That just sounds so wrong. She's barely old enough to know about that," Haines said.

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