Shareef Clemons pleaded guilty to raping a 15-year-old Kierra Johnson when he was 16. His co-defendant, Juan Williams, pleaded guilty in February.
In brief, what happened was this: Kierra Johnson was 15, and got drunk enough that she passed out, and then the two boys she was with carried her into the basement and raped her while she lay passed out and dying with a blood alcohol level of .433 (five times the legal limit for driving). However, the Philadelphia News, which reported the incident, does not actually use the word “rape,” but instead writes that Johnson’s rapists “took turns having sex with” her.
This type of reporting — of not being willing to talk about the thing everyone is there to talk about — is both harmful and irresponsible. According to The Curvature:
“They raped her as she was dying, a medical examiner has testified to as much, the men have confessed to as much, the physical evidence proves as much, one of the boys’ mothers finding her body dead and partially clothed tells us as much, and this newspaper finds itself unable — no, unwilling — to say “rape” when describing what they did.”
The article also describes her as having “a turbulent life” and mention that she had a child at 14 and had been expelled from one school for having sex on school grounds — facts that are completely irrelevant to the manner in which she died. In fact, the only reason to mention them is if you are trying to characterize the victim as in some way deserving, which this article unquestionably does.
An article (one of about three) at the time had the headline, “Kierra: Is this the new version of ‘normal’? It opens, “What a sad, sad story was Kierra Johnson’s death. But even sadder was her life.” The narrative that follows — one that all but states “she had it coming” — seems to attempt to excuse what happened as based on circumstance, as much her fault as anyone’s. However. It was not her fault, and talking about the incident as if it was, or might be, is not OK.
Another article mentions, right in the first paragraph, that she had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is not relevant at all to either what happened or to the reporting on it.
And then, of course, there are the commenters. One, CommonSenseJustice, starts off with saying “Not placing blame on the victim” and then does. Multiple times. In the presence of such solid reporting, he’s in good company.