Last Thanksgiving an eleven year old in Cleveland, Texas was gang-raped, repeatedly, by at least 18 and maybe as many as 28 men. Her attackers even filmed the incident and posted it online. But although 18 arrests have been made, many in the community have rallied, not around the victim, but the attackers, even going so far as to suggest that the eleven year old may have had it coming to her. Disconcertingly, many in the local, and national media seemed to mirror those sentiments.
But not Hollywood actress Shannon Ivey. Mrs. Ivey gave the attackers, the town, the media, and the rest of us a fiery piece of her mind. In an online article she lambasted the attackers, demanded justice be sought "relentlessly" for the victim, and made some very poignant statements about the way we treat the most fragile among us. Conspiracy Of Hope had the opportunity to interview Shannon and to ask her about this vicious crime.
In your recent excoriation of the Cleveland 18 (I believe the word you used was “bastards”), you minced no words about their “demonic brutality” against an eleven year old girl. Were you most offended as a mother, a citizen, a human, a female, or a as person of faith?
All of the above, as my spirit encompasses all of these labels at once. I, like most of us, am offended to my core. Acts of violence elicit fear and fear is paralyzing. As a mother – I fear for my own child. As a citizen – I fear that our system has failed, again. As a woman – I fear the life long physical and emotional repercussions for this young girl. I fear the inevitable vulnerability as a woman to a faceless attacker. As a person of faith – I fear for her relationship with God. I fear that she will blame God. I fear that her heart may be too wounded to hear God.
I refuse to live in fear, which is why I wrote as candidly as I did. (Funny, I re-wrote this article three times. The first two were rated ‘R’.)
When an act as grotesque as this is possible, what does this say about the state of our society, our families, our world?
That we are all completely disconnected from one another and from God.
You blamed ego for the filming and subsequent release of the gang-rape footage on the internet. Could you explain that and maybe tell us what else you believe could have motivated these men to think this was acceptable, even brag worthy behavior?
I grew up in a small Texas town, so I fully understand what it is to glorify the manipulative machine that is Hollywood. In an age where amateur sex tapes have garnered Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and countless others multi-million dollar careers, it’s not difficult to understand why these young men would think that documenting this event would be appealing. We live in an age of instant fame and sadly, everybody wants a piece of the pie.
You wrote that one would assume that the community would reach out to this girl, protect her and demand justice. But not only did that not happen, they actually blamed the eleven year old girl, scrutinizing her "wearing [of] provocative clothes", "wearing of makeup" and "hanging out around high-school boys". Is this just a case of people distancing themselves from their own complicity? Or does it say something more sinister about human nature?
Human beings have always been sinister and corrupt; they just haven’t had the mass communication capabilities to broadcast it to the world. I believe the sinister problem inherent in this tragedy has more to do with being fiercely loyal to your label. “The Quarters” is the label that the Cleveland locals have placed on the area of town where this event occurred and where many of the accused are from. When you watch footage taken from the community – the folks from this neighborhood were extremely loyal to one another. It is a case of us vs. them and stick with your own. It’s bizarre – the label means more to them than this 11 year old girl.
Conspiracy Of Hope has found that one reason people don’t respond to the horror of Child-Trafficking and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is because they can disconnect those victims from their own children and grandchildren. You wrote an ambitious open-ended exhortation for the entire nation: “To We the People: this girl has a name. She is your daughter, your mother, your sister, your aunt, your cousin and/or your friend. She has the same name of every woman you know and love. She breathes, fears, loves, cries, screams and bleeds.” You say a connection to this girl is the only way to “right this savage wrong”. How can “We the People” be compelled to do just that?
We must begin by facing the truth that we are all just one tragedy/choice/situation/circumstance away from ending up in the unnamed girl’s shoes. We must quit consuming the news with a shell around us. We must filter news stories such as this one with an understanding that this girl has a story, a pulse, a family. Until we connect with one another – this problem will remain at a distance.
Unlike many of your peers you spent a considerable amount of time in your article talking about the “un-named” victim and asked people to consider her in all of this. If you had 5 minutes alone to talk to her, what would you say?
I wouldn’t say anything. I would listen. Then I would act.
As a TV and movie actress, do you feel that those industries in some way encourage this type of deviant behavior with their sexual objectification of children and romanticizing of violence?
Absolutely, and to suggest otherwise is naïve.
What does your faith require of you by way of justice and why?
My faith requires me to follow the lead and listen to the voice of my Creator. He speaks to everyone regarding justice – sometimes His voice is small and still, sometimes it’s loud and clear, sometimes it’s just a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. My faith requires me to seek out the weakest link in our community and provide God’s welding torch. At this moment, my torch just happens to be writing and creating.
What’s next for the exceptionally versatile and artistically ambidextrous Shannon Ivey?
I watched my son suffer in NICU for the first 10 days of his life; it was the worst 10 days of mine. The experience inspired my first children’s book called, ‘Mama’s Kisses Are Magic.’ (Illustrated by: Scott Line) We have been working on getting it published for the sole purpose of using the proceeds to help abused, hurting and discarded children. (You can imagine how receptive the publishing industry has been – “You want to give money to who? Why!?”) These children don’t give up, so neither will we! I have faith that someone will get it – if not, we will find a way to self-publish. I have included the cover – it really is a beautiful book!
I’m also busy writing columns for Hollywoodrepublican.net (BTW – I’m not even Republican, which I find hilarious!) and we are just about finished with our sci-fi/action adventure screenplay called, ‘The Eight’.
Beyond that I’m gonna enjoy kissin’ my boy’s fat cheeks.
Any parting thoughts….
When I began researching this article, my soul wept. I can’t imagine the stories that you all have encountered and the lives that you have changed by doing what you do. May God bless your organization and thank you for welding the links!!!
As always, from all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope, thanks to all of you for caring about justice. And a very special thanks to Shannon for her compassion and candor, for being a voice for the voiceless, and for not letting this nameless girl be forgotten, filed away, forever disconnected from love.