CLEVELAND, Texas -- A meeting Thursday night that was billed
as a way to discuss concerns some have about the investigation into
a series of alleged sexual assaults on an 11-year-old girl turned
into a forum that many used to blame the girl police contend is the
victim of heinous attacks.
Many who attended the meeting said they supported the group of
men and boys who have been charged in the case. Supporters didn't
claim that the men and boys did not have sex with the young girl;
instead they blamed the girl for the way she dressed or claimed she
must have lied about her age -- accusations that have drawn strong
responses from those who note an 11-year-old cannot consent to sex
and that it doesn't matter how she was dressed.
Other people in this small town about 40 miles northeast of
Houston said earlier this week they were outraged by the attacks.
The age of consent in Texas is 17 and ignorance of a girl's age is
not a legal defense.
"She's 11 years old. It shouldn't have happened. That's a
child," Oscar Carter, 56, who is related to an uncle of one
16-year-old charged in the case, said in an interview earlier in
the week. "Somebody should have said what we are doing is wrong."
Police say the girl was sexually assaulted during several
attacks last year. Authorities have arrested 18 people, including
two of Cleveland's star high school athletes and adults with
criminal records. They face assault and abuse charges.
Authorities began investigating in December after a friend of
the girl told a teacher he had seen a lurid cell phone video that
showed the girl being raped.
Police investigators determined it was recorded inside an
abandoned mobile home on the city's northern outskirts. The girl
told investigators she was raped on Nov. 28, first at a house near
the mobile home and then at the trailer.
Indictments in the case allege that before the Nov. 28 attack,
the girl also was assaulted on Sept. 15 and Oct. 25. Each of those
times, at least two individuals were involved.
Thursday's meeting was led by Quanell X, an activist prominent
in Houston's black community. He told the audience of more than 130
people who had packed a small community center that the gathering's
goal was not to criticize the girl but to question the
investigation by police, although he did question why she didn't
report the attack to authorities herself.
"I did not come here this evening to jump on an 11-year-old
girl," he said.
The activist, who was invited to speak by a local pastor, said
he was concerned that only young black men had been arrested. He
said he believed some of those arrested were guilty but that others
were not. He told those in attendance that if they were questioned
by police about the case that they should only talk to police with
a lawyer present.
During the meeting, Quanell X also asked people to donate money
to the defense funds for two of those arrested in the case.
After the meeting, many in attendance told reporters that the
girl had consented to the sex.
"She lied about her age. Them boys didn't rape her. She wanted
this to happen. I'm not taking nobody's side, but if she hadn't put
herself in that predicament, this would have never happened," said
Angie Woods, who lives in Houston but grew up in Cleveland.
The AP was unable to locate the family this week, but her mother
has told The Houston Chronicle that Child Protective Services
placed the girl in a foster home with restricted access to her