A Question of Rape

It couldn't happen inside a nice suburban school like Jersey Village High ... could it?

Other versions of the story circulated, but with the same conclusion. "Some people were saying that she pretty much deserved what she got," says the sophomore who claims her friend was raped in the parking lot, and who also knows the boy Deirdre identified as her assailant, "because she said yes at first, and then she said no. Some people were saying that if you say yes at first, you can't say no afterward."

Deirdre may be fading from memory at school, but her supporters won't let the issue rest. Cynthia Calleo of Justice for All hopes the Jersey Village police or another law enforcement agency will reopen the case after she and others gather more evidence backing Deirdre's allegation. Short of that, Calleo may try to get a grand jury to issue an indictment.

If the boy ever has to face a judge, another case currently in the courts offers a suggestion of what his defense strategy might be: the accusation by a 13-year-old Brenham High School girl who says she was gang-raped by four boys at a party last summer. The girl waited five days before confiding in the wife of her camp youth minister. After the four boys were indicted by a Washington County grand jury, two accepted plea bargains and received deferred adjudications, but the case turned on its ear when another defendant went on the offensive, producing fellow students who testified that the girl had entrapped him, as well as explicit letters the girl wrote that named three of the four defendants.

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The boy's indictment was quashed for technical reasons, and it now appears that all four cases will go back to a grand jury after attorneys for both sides argued successfully that the cases should be tossed -- the girl's parents arguing that the punishments resulting from the plea bargains were too lenient, and the defendants' parents contending that the new evidence should invalidate the charges. In addition, the prosecutor recused himself after the girl's parents alleged that he favored the defendants because of relationships with their friends and relatives.

If the cases go forward, it's clear what the defense strategy will be: Blame the victim.

But the girl has already been put through a trial of sorts. Her mother says that their home has been wrapped with toilet paper and egged since her daughter's allegation was made public. The girl has been vilified by graffiti in school restrooms and on tennis courts. At school, she's been surrounded by crowds of fellow students who've threatened to run her out of town.

In contrast to Deirdre's experience, the administration at Brenham High has been very supportive of the girl. Still, she regrets ever reporting the rape. "Do you know what she said?" asks her mother. "She said, 'If I know of anyone that this happens to, I wouldn't tell any of them to come forward. I'm marked.' "

At least she's still in school. The education of Deirdre has been on hold for six weeks. She spends her days watching television or playing with Donnie's godchildren. Even if she's accepted into the homebound program, it's unlikely she'll catch up enough to advance to tenth grade next year, which would be the second time she will have repeated a grade. Regardless, says her mother, Deirdre will never go back to Jersey Village High, or any school in the Cy-Fair district.

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