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Outcry over disowned US-Liberian rape girl

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    25 July 2009 05:40 UK Outcry over disowned US rape girl Offers of help are pouring in for an eight-year-old Liberian girl disowned by her own family in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 25, 2009
      25 July 2009 05:40 UK

      Outcry over disowned US rape girl

      Offers of help are pouring in for an eight-year-old Liberian girl disowned by her own family in Phoenix, Arizona, after being raped by four boys.

      The girl is under the care of the Arizona Child Protective Service (CPS) because her parents said she had shamed them, and they did not want her back.

      Phoenix police said calls had come in from all over the US offering money, or even to adopt the young girl.

      The boys, Liberian immigrants aged nine to 14, have been charged with rape.

      The case has sparked outrage across the US and even drawn condemnation from Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an outspoken anti-rape campaigner.

      "I think that family is wrong. They should help that child who has been traumatised," Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf told CNN.

      "They too need serious counselling because clearly they are doing something, something that is no longer acceptable in our society here," she added.

      Brutal attack

      Media reports said the girl was lured into a shed on 16 July with promises of chewing gum by the four young boys.

      There, they held her down and took turns assaulting her for 10 to 15 minutes, before her screams alerted officers nearby.

      The oldest suspect, a 14-year-old boy, will be tried as an adult on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault, police said on Friday. He is being held in police custody until trial.

      The other three - aged 9, 10, and 13 - are charged as juveniles with sexual assault and kidnapping.

      But the police said no charges will be filed against the parents.

      "They didn't abandon the child," Phoenix police sergeant Andy Hill told AFP news agency. "They committed no crime. They just didn't support the child, which led to CPS coming over there."

      Sgt Hill said people from eight or nine US states had called wanting to adopt the girl or donate money.

      "It has been unbelievably fantastic in terms of support for the child," he said. 

       'Shame' felt by young assault victim's family decried

          * Story Highlights
          * President Sirleaf speaks about Arizona sexual assault of refugee, 8
          * Four boys, ages 9 to 14, also refugees, are charged in the case
          * Sirleaf says, "This is not a question of shame on the family"
          * Liberia's ambassador to U.S. says he will join efforts to help the girl

      July 25, 2009 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)

      (CNN) -- The president of Liberia spoke Friday on the sexual assault of an 8-year-old Liberian refugee in Phoenix, Arizona, decrying reports that the parents believe their family has been shamed by the girl.

      President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the girl, her family and the alleged rapists should receive counseling.

      "This is not a question of shame on the family. It is the question of an assault on a young child. That cannot be tolerated," said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking by telephone.

      Police have charged four boys, ages 9 to 14, in the case. The boys also are Liberian refugees.

      "We are so saddened," Sirleaf said. "We are deeply distressed at this behavior on the part of our young Liberians and very saddened at this 8-year-old child who has been so victimized."

      Phoenix police say the boys used an offer of chewing gum to lure the girl to a storage shed at an apartment complex on July 16. There, they allege, the four boys restrained and sexually assaulted her.

      The 14-year-old was charged as an adult Thursday and will face two counts of sexual assault and one count of kidnapping. The other three boys were charged in juvenile court with sexual assault, and two of them also were charged with kidnapping, Thomas said.

      Speaking from Liberia, Sirleaf said the family's reaction to the incident is wrong. "They should help that child who has been traumatized," she said.
      Don't Miss

          * Prosecutor: Sexual assault is 'heartrending'
          * Police: Boys sexually assaulted 8-year-old girl

      She suggested the family members "need serious counseling because, clearly, they are doing something that is no longer acceptable in our society here."

      She also called upon Phoenix authorities to counsel the alleged attackers. "They have to pay the penalty, but we also want to make sure that they are counseled ... that they will have an opportunity to change and become useful citizens, not only in the United States but when they return home."

      Detectives said the girl was placed in the custody of Phoenix child protective services after the attack because of her parents' attitude toward her.

      "The parents felt that they had been shamed or embarrassed by their child," Phoenix police Sgt. Andy Hill said Thursday.

      Tony Weedor -- co-founder of the CenterPoint International Foundation, which aids Liberians in the United States and provides aid for those still in Liberia -- agreed with Hill. He said rape was not against the law in Liberia until 2006.

      "The family [believes they] have been shamed by her ... and they're more concerned about that than the crime," he said.

      Sirleaf said the family should not be concerned about that.

      "Let me say very clearly that rape is a problem in Liberia also. There is a strong law regarding that," she said.

      Milton Barnes, Liberia's ambassador to the United States, said he also will step in to help the victim.

      "Our primary concern is this child," he said. "We intend to work with the authorities and the family to make sure she is safe, protected and there is certain sensitivity exercised towards her."

      Edwin Sele, the deputy ambassador, also responded to the incident.

      "Having heard the story myself, I'm outraged," he said. "In Liberia, the family and law enforcement officers would be embracing the victim. To hear that the family is not doing that, that should be an isolated case."

      Hill said Thursday that protective services officers would "determine what's going to happen [to the girl] in the days ahead."

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