Now, a 14-year-old in Elwood, Indiana who is eight months pregnant faces ongoing harassment simply because her neighborhood sees her as a very young pregnant girl. But a reporter at the Indianapolis Star writes that her town does not know the full story of the 17-year-old boy who physically overpowered her after she told him “no.” On Tuesday, he faces sentencing for three counts of child molestation.
At the same time the girl has encountered vicious public shaming from her community, she and her mother Kristy Green have spoken out because they worry her assailant will walk free in juvenile court:
“I can’t walk out the door without someone calling me a whore or slut,” the girl said. “I used to have a lot of friends, or people I thought were my friends, but as soon as this happened I just isolated myself.”
The repeated vandalism incidents at the family’s home — including the words “whore” and “slut” scrawled on the garage doors — were reported to police. But Green said no charges were filed because there were no witnesses to the acts.
Her daughter also has been the target of mean-spirited rumors and speculation that her pregnancy is the result of promiscuous behavior.
This ordeal is all too common for victims of sexual assault — a reality that affects not just U.S. teens in school, but also pervades military and sports culture. The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board recently noted that “it’s still news when a rape victim stands in front of the cameras to state what ought to be obvious, which is that she has nothing to be ashamed of.”
But the people in Elwood — lacking the details of the rape due to privacy in the juvenile court system — reverted to alienating the teen for her pregnancy because they assumed she must have been “promiscuous.” That’s true for many teen moms across the country, who are often on the receiving end of this stigma precisely at the time they most need support. Public awareness campaigns attempting to prevent teen pregnancy often put inordinate focus on “slut-shaming” abstinence over comprehensive sexual health resources.