Warrants issued in alleged gang-rape posted online

By Max Bearak

A woman wearing a female gender symbol attends a protest against the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP
A woman wearing a female gender symbol attends a protest against the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP

The 16-year-old girl arrived at her 19-year-old boyfriend's house in Rio de Janeiro at around 1 am a week ago.

She remembers being alone with him there. The girl says her next memory is waking up in a different house surrounded by more than 30 men, many of them armed.

All or at least some of them may have raped her. Naked, injured, and penniless, she found some spare clothes and made her way home, she later said.

Her nightmare was far from over. On Thursday, two of the accused attackers tweeted pictures of her, as well as a 40-second video.

The tweets were promptly taken down, but not before they accrued hundreds of "likes" and misogynistic comments. In the video, the girl is apparently seen waking up from a drug-induced unconsciousness, and a man says, "Pounded the girl - get it? Hahaha." In the other, a different man is pictured with his face next to the woman's genitalia. The caption reads, "Rio state opens a new tunnel for the speed train."

Police have issued arrest warrants for four men, and the search for them is ongoing.

The boyfriend and another man are accused of rape, and the other two face charges for uploading the video and pictures on social media.

Police say the girl told them 33 men raped her. Counter to the widespread belief when the news first broke, the suspects named by the police are "regular guys".

According to the Globe and Mail, "one was until recently a camera operator at a local television station, another is a promising football player for a local team and the son of an evangelical pastor".

"I want them to await the justice of God. I feel like trash," the 16-year-old said in brief comments to O Globo newspaper.

"It's the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying 'it's her fault. She was using scanty clothes.' I want people to know that it is not the woman's fault. You can't blame a robbery victim, for being robbed."

The attack took place in one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, which are dense and mostly poor neighbourhoods often built onto the side of the city's steep slopes. It occurred at a time of heightened concern over a renewed wave of violence in the favelas.

Hit by low oil prices, the Brazil is suffering through its worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and as a result is cutting back on public spending. About US$550 million was slashed this year from the budget for police and special forces that heavily patrol the favelas, despite heavy spending on the upcoming Olympic Games.

After the attack, however, Brazil's interim President, Michel Temer, announced that he would be creating a department within the federal police to focus on violence against women. "It's absurd that in the 21st century we have to live with barbarous crimes like this," Temer said.

The BBC reported that the girl's family had watched the video and spoken to local media.

"I regretted watching it. When we heard the story we didn't believe what was happening. It's a great affliction. It's a depressing situation," the girl's grandmother told Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. "She is not well. She is very confused. This was very serious."

Brazilians have come out in the hundreds to protest on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and other cities.

Many have also rallied on social media around the hashtag #EstuproNuncaMais (RapeNeverAgain). The victim herself also took to social media to thank supporters for their solidarity.

"It's not my uterus that hurts, it's my soul, because there are such cruel people who are not punished," she wrote on her Facebook account, in Portuguese. "I really thought I'd be judged badly. But I wasn't. We could all go through this one day."

Almost 50,000 rapes were reported in Brazil in 2014. If convicted, a rapist can face between six and 10 years in jail under current laws.

In response to the comments seeming to blame the victim - "If she had just stayed home, she would have been fine" - Brazilian feminists have widely shared news reports of women being attacked in their own homes.

Rio de Janeiro will host this year's Olympic Games, which start in just over two months.

- Washington Post

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