Another Steubenville: Many In Conn. Town Blame 13-Year-Old Rape Victims In Football Sex Scandal

By @katierucke |
Share this article!
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
    • Google+
    Joan Toribio carries the ball during a Torrington High School football game last fall. (Photo/via Facebook)

    Joan Toribio carries the ball during a Torrington High School football game last fall. (Photo/via Facebook)


    (MintPress) – Just like in the notorious Steubenville, Ohio rape case, many community members in Torrington, Conn., are now blaming two 13-year-old females for being raped by two 18-year-old football players, Edgar A. Gonzalez and Joan M. Toribio.

    Both men have been charged with three identical felonies, according to the Register Citizen, which includes second-degree sexual assault and have been suspended from school. For Gonzalez, this is not the first time he’s had some trouble with the law. Last year Gonzalez was charged with felony robbery and assault.

    Even with these charges, Gonzalez went on to play football during the 2012 season. Former Head Coach Dan Dunaj said when he became aware of the charges he “reeled the kid in after that, and he walked the line.

    “As a coach I was doing something right,” says Dunaj, who said that if he were still the football coach and Gonzalez was eligible to play this fall, he would not let him play.

    Since this most recent incident was made public, Facebook and Twitter streams of many Torrington High School students, both male and female, have been polluted with remarks taunting the 13-year-old victims — calling one of the girls a “whore” and even going so far as to propose that she “ruined the lives” of the 18-year-old football players.

    “Even if it was all his fault, what was a 13-year-old girl doing hanging around 18-year-old guys …” said a Twitter user with the handle, “@LoryyRamirez.” That was reposted 11 times and received six favorites.

    Another said, “If it takes two then why is only one in trouble? Ha,” a post that was reposted 21 times and received 13 “favorites.”

    Those who have spoken in support of the girls have also been bullied on social networks.

     

    Pending trial

    Investigations related to the sexual assault charges began on Feb. 10, 2013 and it’s not known if the cases against Gonzalez and Toribio are connected. Basic details of the case are unavailable currently, because a state judge has sealed information about the allegations from public view — according to The Associated Press — and attorneys for both men have largely remained mum.

    The New York Times reported that when speaking with a lawyer for Gonzalez, J. Patten Brown III said his client had pleaded not guilty, and is “charged with his relation with one girl, and the other co-defendant is charged with his relation with a separate girl.”

    Gonzalez’ case was continued until April 2 and Toribio’s until April 23. Gonzalez is currently being held at New Haven Correction Center, while Toribio is out on a $50,000 professional surety bond, but is being electronically monitored and is being tutored.

    Last week police reported a 17-year-old was also arrested on March 4 in connection with one of the cases and that more arrests were expected as they continued their investigation.

     

    Cyberbullying

    According to the Connecticut Commission on Children, Public Act 11-232, the school is required to take “comprehensive steps to prevent bullying, humiliation or assault.” But as Torrington’s school superintendent, Cheryl F. Kloczko said, the school needs help from families of its students in terms of monitoring what their children are saying online.

    “Many times what happens is the Twitter, and the emails, and the Facebook, a lot of that goes on outside of school that we don’t even have knowledge of, and then it gets dragged into school and that’s a challenge,” Kloczko said.

    Similarly, Debrah Pollutro, an assistant to the schools superintendent, said her office had been “bombarded” with calls on Wednesday. “Parents are asking us, ‘What are we going to do about online bullying?’” Pollutro said. “And I tell them, ‘There’s nothing we can do; there’s no police, no protection whatsoever governing the World Wide Web.’”

    Though an investigation is still being conducted into the sexual assault charges brought against Gonzalez and Toribio, in addition to a hazing scandal, officials at Torrington High School say that the violent incidents do not signal a greater issue.

    Athletic Director Mike McKenna said, “If you think there’s some wild band of athletes that are wandering around then I think you’re mistaken. If you look at crime statistics these things happen everywhere and we’re not any different than any other community.”

    But some groups, like the online hacktivists Anonymous argue, just like in Steubenville, the Torrington case proves there’s an epidemic in the United States in which the public largely blames sexual assault on the victim, especially when the alleged assailants are star athletes.

    The group helped garner national attention for the Steubenville rape case by spotlighting via social media channels the bullying the victim was receiving from students and other community members who were concerned about the integrity of the town’s football program. Anonymous also published private information about those believed to have information about the case.

    This weekend, the group urged its followers to donate to the Susan B. Anthony Project, a Torrington-based advocacy group for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Though the group has more than 900,000 followers on Twitter, only a handful responded to and shared the group’s message.

    Barbara Spiegel, 18-year executive director of the Susan B. Anthony Project, said that coming forward is not easy for victims.

    “It’s really traumatic,” Spiegel explained. “If you know how many people don’t report sexual assaults, it’s a lot because it is really traumatic. How many times you have to tell you story over and over again to police, how many times you have to tell your story, how many times your character is questioned when you’re not the perpetrator you’re the victim,” she said.

     

    Troubled history

    According to the Register Citizen, Gonzalez was charged in March 2012, along with three other teenagers with three felonies for allegedly jumping three 14-year-olds hoping to find money. Charges against Gonzalez included robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, along with two misdemeanor charges, assault and attempt to commit larceny.

    “What happens if the kid is a bad seed? There’s people in jail. There’s bad people out there,” said Dunaj. The five-year coach said, “If we had about 50 kids on the team over 5 years and you do the math how many of the kids I coach.”

    “The swim team doesn’t have those type of kids. They have kids in the National Honor Society. I don’t have those kids. I wish I did,” he added.

    “My process has always been like this, and I learned this from my high school coach, and I never got into any big trouble, thank God, but if you didn’t give the kid a chance then who’s going to,” said Dunaj, who resigned in December.

    Though McKenna says the district’s policies for dismissing student athletes are taken on a case by case basis, Dunaj’s decision to let Gonzalez play in 2012 may not have been entirely backed up by the schools athletic program.

    McKenna said he was never informed of the March 2012 robbery incident and said “that situation would have caused him to be suspended from the team, I can tell you that, and kept on suspension until the conclusion of the case,”

    He added that a “serious infraction” would cause a student athlete to be suspended from play, but couldn’t say, when asked, if that would be a felony or a misdemeanor. He said he did consider violent felonies a “serious infraction.”


    Share this article!

       

      Print This Story Print This Story
      This entry was posted in Nation, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.