Did These Torrington Rape Documents Feed Social Media Victim Shaming?

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The arrest warrants for two 18-year-olds accused of raping two 13-year-old girls were unsealed late Friday afternoon in Torrington, Connecticut, two months after the alleged attack, and they paint a very different picture of what happened than the story we've been hearing from the Torrington police — which is the same story the accused rapists' many student defenders on social media have been using to blame the alleged victims.

According to the Hartford Courant, Torrington police spokesman Lt. Mike Emanuel told reporters last month:

"It's very complex, but [the case is] under control," Emanuel said. "I'm not minimizing this," he said, but he stressed that the 13-year-olds knew the older teenagers. The reason the incidents are being investigated as sexual assaults is because the girls are so young and the age difference is more than three years.

"It was consensual in the sense that it was not an attack but not consensual in the eyes of the law," Emanuel said.

The social media campaign from within and around Torrington High framed the February incident similarly, as many users on Twitter and Instragram identified as classmates of the accused (one of whom was the school's football MPV) called the alleged attack rape in statutory name only and a "victimless crime."

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If the accusations in the newly released warrants and police interviews are true, this was not the case. One of the 13-year-old girls "verbally told [Edgar] Gonzalez that she did not want to have sex" and "continued to say no" but he "had sex with her anyway." Gonzalez also grabbed her head and poured alcohol down her throat because she "needed a shot," according to the unsealed documents. The same girl said she "felt fuzzy from the alcohol" and told her mother that she smoked marijuana for the first time. Gonzalez said that he did not force the girl to have sex with him, but admitted that he knew she was 13 — it is illegal in Connecticut to have sex with a minor, and the state's three-year age boundary does not affect this case. The second girl, according to the new documents, did not smoke marijuana or drink on the night when the two snuck out of a sleepover to the house of the other suspect, Joan Toribio, and was very reluctant to speak to the police, telling them at one point that "I ruined his life."

That line of thinking — ruining lives, girls who "wanted the D," and worse — has been prevalent in the ongoing victim-shaming at Torrington High, even as the case unfolded in the press but stayed quiet in local law enforcement. Town and school officials seem helpless to figure out a way to stop the reactions, and asking Torrington High School students to stop attacking the victims on social media didn't help. Torrington police are not investigating it and the school system won't have an update to its bullying policy until May at the earliest, according to the Register Citizen.

There are a lot of questions left to answer on how to prevent this from happening again and again. Here's another one: Would unsealing those documents sooner have stopped the students from siding with the accused rapists and blaming the 13-year-old victims?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.