Nearly every film critic has been dismissive if not scornful of Gone. Although they are entitled to their opinions, it is noteworthy how badly they have interpreted the film. They have misrepresented what happens in the story, and they have failed to see how it relates to contemporary events. Gone is an excellent film noir with a bold political perspective.
Director: Heitor Dhalia. Screenplay: Allison Burnett. Producer: Dan Abrams. Cinematographer: Michael Grady. Music: David Buckley. Art Director: Sarah Contant. Editor: John Axelrad. Cast: Amanda Seyfried (Jill), Daniel Sunjata (Powers), Jennifer Carpenter (Sharon), Sebastian Stan (Billy), Wes Bentley (Hood), Nick Searcy (Mr. Miller), Socratis Otto (Jim), Emily Wickersham (Molly), Katherine Moennig (Lonsdale), Michael Paré (Lt. Bozeman). Lakeshore Entertainment, February 24, 2012. 94 minutes.
I have downloaded, printed and read more than 60 reviews of Gone. All of them are at least several paragraphs. I didn’t bother with brief write-ups because they have nothing insightful to say about the plot, whatever their opinion of the film. As a rule, though, the fewer the words the fewer the stars. Typical of a short take is the following by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone (February 24, 2012).
“It’s a substandard thriller that traps Amanda Seyfried in the role of Jill Parrish, a waitress the police believe cried wolf by claiming she’d escaped a crazed kidnapper. Now, a year later, Jill – hyped up on anxiety pills – comes home to find her sister gone. She’s sure it’s the same rapey-eyed maniac and goes in pursuit. That’s the premise and I’m sure a talent like David Fincher could make something of it. But Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia merely recycles bump-in-the-night thriller tropes. There’s no thrill in Gone because you can see every surprise coming. It lies there flapping like a dying fish. Skip it.”
Across the spectrum of opinion, from the high percentage of reviewers who dislike if not disdain Gone to the tiny minority that really wants people to see it, there are gross errors in interpretations, plus mistakes about simple facts. For instance, in reviews that cite Jill’s last name, it is always “Parrish.” The name that characters say, including Jill herself, is “Conway.”
My purpose for studying so many lengthier reviews was to see how many of them, if any, discuss a key plot element – the disappearance of many young women, not just Jill and her sister. I found that, with only a couple of exceptions, the reviews fail to do this. And not one review speaks to the valuable political theme of the film. In short, it can be shown that reviewers fail to accurately interpret the plot right before their eyes.
Gone begins with Jill walking in a huge forest. At this time we don’t know why, but she is searching for a deep hole, where she, unique among many abductees, escaped from being murdered. Peter Travers, like other reviewers, doesn’t accurately describe the predator that snatched her. Referring to a kidnapper instead of a serial killer allows critics to restrict their plot summaries just to the abductions of Jill and her sister.
While the opening credits roll and Jill wanders among the trees, three contributions to the production of Gone create and, for the rest of the film, maintain an intensely crafted noir world. Michael Grady’s cinematography keeps colors well on the dark side of the pallet. John Axelrad edits often, but not too rapidly, to make perspectives shift from cut to cut (close-ups and long shots, views from above and below, still shots and tracking). David Buckley’s original score, a mix of pieces of composed orchestration and stray sounds, sustains a foreboding moodiness, which is neither overly melodramatic nor sensational.
Each of these production features exhibits restraint. We can be aware of the colors, the framing and the music, but none to distraction. They don’t draw attention to themselves, much less overwhelm. They also correspond to the handling of the plot, which is very well paced. Gone neither pumps up the volume nor tries to send chills down spines. It is a remarkably stylistic and dramatic treat among contemporary Hollywood film noir.
Jill sits down at a picnic table in a clearing and draws lines on a map to mark the area she has just explored. The map says Forest Park. The crosshatches already on the map indicate she has been in the woods before. They suggest she is systematically covering the terrain. As Jill drives out of the park, the camera tracks her from high overhead. Just when the credits end, the camera pans over the treetops to show in the distance the skyline of Portland, Oregon.
Perhaps the next scene, a silhouette of Jill’s nude body behind a shower curtain, is meant to distract us from observing what comes next – a close-up of the pajama shirt that Jill’s sister, Molly, is wearing. Molly criticizes Jill for going to the park. She thinks her anger is justified and even equivalent to the way Jill would react if Molly “came home drunk.” Molly is meeting the challenge of staying on the wagon, but Jill is failing to keep a promise to stay away from the woods. What is Molly’s beef? Once we understand why Jill visits the park, we know Molly doesn’t believe Jill was kidnapped. Rather, she thinks Jill is psychologically unsound.
Jill has flashbacks about her abduction that happened a year before in the middle of the night. To avoid being vulnerable again, she lives nocturnally. She takes self-defense classes in the evening and works the graveyard shift at a downtown diner. Before Jill leaves their house, Molly asks her to wake her up when she gets home. But the next morning Jill finds Molly’s bed is empty, and on the living room floor Jill sees earrings Molly had been wearing. A framed photo of Molly is missing, but none of her clothes.
Jill goes to the police station with something the reviews don’t mention – a file folder thick with newspaper articles and photographs of young women who have disappeared. She tells Lt. Bozeman, Sgt. Powers and detectives Lonsdale and Hood that the same man who had kidnapped her has now taken Molly. They respond with alternative scenarios, such as Molly is with her boyfriend. Bozeman’s final comment is, “Adults have the right to disappear.” Powers adds, “Jill, you’ve been up all night. It’s all in your head. Please go home and get some sleep.”
The police couldn’t find any evidence that Jill was ever abducted – no signs of forced entry into her home and “no defensive wounds” or foreign DNA on her body after a hiker found her at the edge of Forest Park “covered in mud” and “half frozen to death.” So they think there never was a kidnapper. The detectives – just like the film reviewers – pay no mind to the contents of Jill’s folder, even when she argues, “He could have taken any one of these girls. They’re all missing!” The detectives predict Molly will be back by the end of the weekend. Jill insists Molly has to be rescued by the end of that day, Friday, because it was on the night following her own abduction that her captor tried to murder her.
After Jill leaves the station vowing to find Molly by herself, Powers tells Hood about Jill’s mental history. “A couple of years back she lost both of her parents within a few months of each other. She ends up in a psych-ward on a suicide watch. Understandably. When we start poking holes in her story, she flips out. Had to ship her out to St. Joseph’s on an involuntary commit. They had to hold her a couple of months…But she stuck with her story.” Reviews of Gone often refer to this part of the scene. However, no review includes Powers complaint about Jill, “Every time a girl goes missing, she thinks it’s her guy, and she’s in here breaking my balls.”
Powers is annoyed by Jill’s confrontations with him, since a figment of her imagination can’t possibly be abducting anyone. Yet Jill keeps returning to the station because it often occurs that “a girl goes missing.” These repeated disappearances, however, don’t draw Powers’ interest. Furthermore, even though the film has a key plot point that many young women are gone – forever – the reviewers ignore it.
Molly’s boyfriend, Billy, comes over to Jill’s house and sees a pajama shirt in a hamper. He says this means Molly couldn’t be wearing it now because Molly only has one pair of pajamas. Jill insists Molly has two pairs and the one she’s was wearing the night before has a different design from the one in the hamper. Billy isn’t convinced, to Jill’s frustration. Moreover, he believes Molly is missing because she went out drinking. Unlike Jill, Billy lacks confidence that Molly can stay on the wagon.
When the detectives learn Jill has a pistol, she becomes the target of a police BOLO (be on the lookout). Powers tells Lonsdale and Hood that Jill was “involuntarily committed to a mental health facility,” so it is illegal for her to carry a firearm. The police manhunt for Jill is urgent because, as Bozeman explains, if Jill shoots and kills anyone, the police themselves will be held responsible. Many reviews claim Hood wants to help Jill. The apparent evidence is that, after Powers tells Jill to bring in her gun, Hood steps out of the office and privately calls Jill. He says, “I think the same guy that grabbed you grabbed Molly.” He wants to know where she is and “get that gun squared away.” Then he suggests ways in which they can work together “to find Molly,” and “maybe take a look around Forest Park.”
Unlike the reviewers who accept Hood’s deceit, Jill knows it is a trap. “You’ll lock me up,” she says. Hood continues, “Jill, you have to trust me. You can’t do this alone.” Jill says, “Just watch me,” and hangs up. Reviewers have no basis for being misled by Hood. He’s obviously lying because, only moments after she has talked with Powers about her gun, Hood tells her, “I’ve spoken with my boss, Lt. Bozeman…He gave me the case. I’m the lead investigator.”
What would motivate Hood to try an end run around his colleagues and bring in Jill by himself? To show them he isn’t a wimp. Lonsdale (who some reviewers say dresses and acts like a lesbian) told Hood he has gotten “soft” while he was “on disability.” When a police officer approaches Lonsdale and Hood with a report that Jill has a gun, Lonsdale wants him to hand the document to Hood. This is only Hood’s third day in the homicide department, so she sarcastically tells the cop to “be gentle” with Hood. By bringing in Jill on his own, Hood can earn respect.
A second time Hood calls Jill, she answers, “Where’s bad cop,” meaning Powers. That is, she doesn’t consider Hood as someone who is on her side but, instead, as what he really is, pretending to be the “good cop” and working with Powers to find and arrest her.
The most common topic in the reviews is that the film makes it plausible to assume Jill wasn’t kidnapped and, therefore, she may be delusional. Some reviews say her flashbacks about being in the hole are only projections of her disturbed state of mind. There is no review that takes Jill’s story for granted – she was abducted and so, too, was Molly.
One example of evidence for the reviewers to question what Jill believes happened is when Powers tells Hood what the homicide department did to check out Jill’s story: “search teams, dogs, arial units, the whole nine.” However, late in the film, Jill and the killer have a phone conversation. He scoffs at the effort to locate the hole. “When I read about what happened to you, I couldn’t believe they called off the search after only one week. Did they really think they’d find a hole in the middle of 5,000 acres so easily?” Yet the reviewers ignore this contradiction of Powers’ claim that the cops did all they could to check Jill’s story.
The key point of dispute about Molly’s disappearance is whether she was wearing her pajama shirt and boxer shorts. If Molly was not, as Billy believes, it means she wasn’t abducted because she got into street clothes and left the house on her own. If she was, as Jill insists, it means Molly was grabbed from her bed. Audiences that recall Molly was wearing her pajamas the night she disappeared will also, therefore, acknowledge Jill, not Billy, is correct. Although the reviewers play up the angle that Jill may be crazy, the film clearly, albeit subtly, shows that Jill knows what she’s talking about (and, so, she must be sane).
What Jill thinks she is doing and what is actually happening aren’t the same things. Review after review puts down the film because of how easily Jill seems to advance from one clue or person with information to the next. Terms of disdain for Allison Burnett’s screenplay that appear in multiple reviews include “paint-by-numbers,” “connect-the-dots” and “Scooby-Doo-esque.” Linda Barnard, in The Toronto Star, claims Jill is “following a trail that is so obvious it all but glows in the dark for her.” Not a single reviewer shows any recognition the killer has schemed to dupe Jill into thinking she is discovering clues by herself, whereas, in fact, he is bringing Jill, step-by-step, to him.
The earring on the living room floor and the easy-to-spot empty picture frame are the first signs that this is no ordinary snatch-job. Jill asks a neighbor, Mr. Miller (Nick Searcy), whether he noticed anything unusual the night before. He says he was disturbed by two loud honks from a van, which was parked for a while in Jill’s driveway – parked long enough for him to be able to describe it.
Without much trouble, Jill locates the locksmith that uses the van. At the shop she finds out someone who called himself “Digger” (as in dig a hole) paid to use the van the night before. Inside the van Jill finds a roll of gray duct tape and a receipt from a local hardware store where the tape and other kidnapping-useful supplies were purchased hours before Molly disappeared. The owner of the hardware store gives Jill the customer’s hotel name and address, plus his car’s year, model and color. That is, the customer intentionally told all this to the shopkeeper.
Jill describes the car to a resident at the same hotel and learns the man’s room number as well as his name, Jim LaPoint. In Jim’s room Jill finds another roll of duct tape and a matchbook from the diner where she works – conveniently left for her to discover. She realizes the man she is pursuing is a regular at the diner, someone who was there the night before. Since the man gives big tips to Sharon, another waitress, Jill goes to her house to learn more about him. Sharon has Jim’s phone number, which (no surprise) he gave her the night before.
Jill calls Jim and accuses him of breaking into her house and taking Molly when he meant to take her instead. His reply is logical and confounds Jill. Since he knew she was doing her regular night shift at the diner, he would have known she wasn’t home. He asks, “Would you like to meet me and see that I’m not the monster you think I am?” She agrees to follow his directions, which take her deep into Forest Park. Although Jim is coy at the start of their conversation, later he asks Jill to tell him how she escaped from the hole. After she answers, he lets down his guard, “And he’d never been so mad. You got away. You made a fool of him.”
When Jill reaches Jim’s campsite, she finds photographs of young girls taped to a wall inside his tent. One of them is a picture of her sister. As the scene continues with Jill, there is crosscutting to Molly, who is breaking free of the duct tape that was used to bind and gag her. Molly emerges from under her own house wearing boxer shorts and a tank top, not a pajama shirt. She sees Billy, Powers and Lonsdale, and asks them, “Where’s Jill?”
In other words, Molly’s abduction was part of Jim’s plan to get Jill back to the park, where he can finish what she thwarted him from doing the first time he kidnapped her. (It’s said more than once that before Jim’s moves “north,” he wants “to tie up some loose ends.”)
Jill finds the hole. She extends her arm into the cavity and thinks her flashlight shines down on Molly. But it is some other girl’s corpse, wearing Molly’s pajama shirt. Suddenly, Jill’s arm is yanked and she falls into the pit, landing hard on her back. A man emerges from a hiding place in the hole and climbs down a rope ladder. He says to her, “It was so easy to lead you back.”
Incredibly, several reviews claim the killer is a stranger. For example, Dennis Harvey, in Variety, writes, “Pic’s climax is a letdown, particularly since it reveals almost nothing further about the killer, who…might as well be identified in the final crawl as ‘Some Guy’.” Of course, the killer must be Jim because he designed the plan to get Jill to come “back” to him.
The fight between Jill and the killer is over in no time. Some reviewers gripe about its brevity. But that is its merit. Given Jill’s newly developed self-defense skills, and having a .38, there’s no reason to prolong their struggle. It is much more satisfying that it is kept short.
Jill climbs out of the hole, leaving Jim below with two bullet wounds. When she aims her gun down at him, he offers to tell her where Molly is in exchange for his life. After Jill learns Molly is alive and has been under their house “the whole time,” she tells Jim that she “lied” about letting him live, although she keeps her word about not shooting him.
As she drives out of the park, Jill throws the gun away. Back home she embraces Molly and whispers in her ear what she did to Jim. Powers asks her for the gun, and she says, “There’s no gun.” Powers asks her what happened in the park. She says, “There was nobody there.” Powers challenges her, “Jill, somebody pulled your sister our of that bed!” Hood says, “That guy you were meeting?” In a close-up, she says, “Never existed. It was all in my head.” The sisters step into their house, and Jill shuts the door on the detectives. Lonsdale’s facial expression shows an acknowledgement of Jill’s rebuke.
Early in the film, while Jill is getting dressed for work, Molly encourages her to go to dinner with her, Billy, and his cousin. “Instead waiting to get better before you meet a guy, why don’t you meet a guy and see if that helps you get better.” This triggers Jill’s first flashback, which is being abducted from her bed. Thereafter, Jill has more of them, each of which reveals, sequentially, a little more about her abduction and, ultimately, how she escaped.
Some of the flashbacks occur after she meets a strange man (or, as with Billy’s cousin, thinks about one). Some reviewers make an issue about the physical appearances of these men. Although it is never mentioned in the reviews, they are all small business owners or low-wage workers. The reviewers take the film to task for portraying Portland as filled with men who look “creepy,” “sketchy,” “gangly,” and “ludicrous.” Most weird are Jeannette Catsoulis’s observations in The New York Times. “Note to thriller writers: blond men kill people too, you know…[A]ll of these creeps share a similar aversion to shampoo, toothpaste and laundry detergent.”
Not one of the reviewers says anything about how many characters in the film show disrespect toward women.
- Although Billy knows Molly is studying for an important exam, he asks if he can drive over to her house, for a quickie. “In and out in 10 minutes.” Molly says, “That’s very considerate. Good night, Billy,” and hangs up.
- A man much younger than Jill hits on her when she brings plates of food to his booth at the diner. One of his friends says, “Dude, give it up. You’ve got no chance.” A young woman (presumably his girlfriend) sitting next to him says, “Plus, like, Hello, I’m right here.” The guy continues to try to flirt with Jill.
- Bozeman hypothesizes the cause of Molly’s disappearance might be like that of a college honors student who skipped finals to shack up in a motel with someone she had met at a party because she “decided to be impulsive for once.”
- After Jill gets a call from Billy, she tells Powers and Lonsdale that Molly isn’t with her boyfriend. Lonsdale quips, “Well, that’s because she might have two of them. Did you ever think of that?”
- After Powers tells Hood that Jill has been institutionalized twice for mental health issues, Hood says, “She can always move in with me. I like ‘em a little crazy.”
- At the locksmith’s shop, Jill wants to know some information the owner can’t provide. He calls his son into the room and says, “I’m going to ask you a simple question, son. Lie to me and I’ll ship you back to your mother. You understand?”
- In a patrol car, a policeman tells his female partner that five years before he got married, he had sex with his wife’s sister. She asks, “So the sister kept quiet?” “To the grave,” he replies, “Because she knows if she breathes a word, I won’t do her again.” His partner smiles. Later she says, “Here’s how I see it. First time a man hits his wife, she’s a victim. Second time, she’s an accomplice.”
- Jill offers a janitor at a cheap hotel a lot of cash to use his beat-up Bronco. After he counts the bills, he smirks, “I always thought if I met a girl as pretty as you, money would change hands. I just thought it would be in the other direction.”
These incidents are relevant to the larger meaning of Gone, which isn’t addressed in any review. Contrary to the critics, Gone isn’t simply about the abductions of Jill and Molly. Also, contrary to the critics, Gone isn’t mainly about revealing the identity of the kidnapper and rescuing Molly.
The conclusion of Gone directly relates to the opening of the film. The penultimate scene, with Jill and Molly re-united, is as far as plot summaries go in the reviews. No review describes the final scene. Bozeman opens a package Jill has sent him. Inside he finds photographs of young girls with grey duct tape covering their mouths. One of them is a picture of Jill. There is also a map of Forest Park on which Jill has marked the location of the hole. In the last words of the film Bozeman says, “Powers, get in here.”
Jill finally proves to Bozeman that she was abducted and, crucially, many other young women have been victims of a serial killer. With this accomplished, the film ends. Many reviews find the ending unsatisfying. Reasons include the lack of an exciting climax, such as a prolonged combat between Jill and Jim, or that the killer isn’t a surprisingly different character. But vanquishing the murderer is not what the film aims to do. Instead, the point of Gone is to expose the error of the police in refusing to believe Jill. From this perspective, the larger meaning – the valuable political theme – of the film can be understood.
Gone is about violence done to many women and authorities refusing to act to prevent it. In the film, the violence is kidnapping and murder, and the authorities are the local police. Gone displaces different kinds of violence against women and different authorities who look the other way or fail to properly investigate or don’t make the right connections.
That this tragically occurs is matter of historical record as well as today’s news. For example, on April 12, 2012, Nancy Parrish blogged on the Huffington Post about the Pentagon’s latest Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. She says the report “has helped shine a light on the severity and scope of the crisis of rape in the U.S. military….[T]he data shows that the military’s handling of sexual assaults is getting worse, much worse. Charges, courts-martial and convictions plummeted, but there is no indication that sex crimes decreased…This…goes a long way toward explaining why so few victims decide to report. It is evidence of the utter failure to protect the victim and effectively prosecute the perpetrator.”
As reported by Debra Gwartney in The New York Times on July 22, 2012, William Joseph Green in Eugene, Oregon secretly videotaped over 100 young girls changing into their pajamas. He filmed all four of Gwartney’s daughters. She writes, “Although many residents had filed peeping-Tom complaints with the police over the years, no officer had ever linked these reports.” Green was finally caught “after he dropped off film for processing that contained images of a young girl lying on top of him.”
Sexual violence against women is frequent and occurs everywhere — in the home, the workplace, at school. On April 5, 2011, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a news conference at the White House to urge America’s colleges, universities, and secondary schools to do more to prevent and address sexual assault.
In recent years perhaps the most widely reported victims of sexual predation have been young males. In a host of countries there have been revelations not just of Catholic priests violating boys but of the protection they’ve received from the Church hierarchy in their respective nations. Shortly before the release of Gone, the scandal broke at Penn State, where many in power knew but turned a blind eye to the crimes of Jerry Sandusky, thereby enabling him to continue raping.
In contrast to the general consensus among reviewers to disparage Gone, I recommend it as a significant film noir, and I welcome the strong political theme that those in authority, besides the perpetrators themselves, bear responsibility for the ongoing sexual violence in our society.
Since I finished my analysis of Gone in late August 2012, the issue of how “those in authority, besides the perpetrators themselves, bear responsibility for the ongoing sexual violence in our society,” has been associated with several widely reported scandals.
Sexual Assualts of Women in the U.S. Military
In late 2012 I posted news reports about sexual assaults of women in the U.S.military.
However, the staggering numbers publicized a year ago were significantly lower than the frequency of assaults cited by the Pentagon in 2013. In the lead article in The New York Times (May 8, 2013), “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm in Capital,” Jennifer Steinhauer reports that, “The problem of sexual assault in the military leapt to the forefront in Washington on Tuesday as the Pentagon releases a survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010, and an angry President Obama and Congress demanded action.”
On May 25, speaking in a commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel referred to the sexual assaults as a “scourge” on the military.
There is an important documentary on this “scourge,” The Invisible War. It was the winner of the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
On June 4, 2013, The New York Times ran an op-ed by the director of The Invisible War, Kirby Dick, “Don’t Trust the Pentagon to End Rape.”
For more information about The Invisible War, go to:
Whether you first see Gone or The Invisible War, you should watch both films. The Invisible War presents abundant evidence that collaborates the political interpretation I provide above about Gone.
Sexual Assaults of Women at Colleges and Universities
On April 16, 2014, The New York Times published an extensive analysis by Walt Bogdanich of the numerous failures by the Tallahassee, FL police department and the administration of Florida Statue University to investigate the accusation of rape made by an FSU co-ed on December 7, 2012.
In his article, “A Top Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Inquiry,” Bogdanich reports:
“As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.
“For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.
“Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.
“In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university…
“The case has unfolded as colleges and universities across the country are facing rising criticism over how they deal with sexual assault, as well as questions about whether athletes sometimes receive preferential treatment. The Times’s examination — based on police and university records, as well as interviews with people close to the case, including lawyers and sexual assault experts — found that, in the Winston case, Florida State did little to determine what had happened.”
Gang Rapes in India
On December 28, 2012, The New York Times published the following editorial.
“Rape in the World’s Largest Democracy
“The brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi this month has cast a cold light on how badly India treats its women.
“On Dec. 16, the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was viciously assaulted by a group of men while she was riding a bus with a male companion. The two had just seen a movie. Both she and the man were beaten with an iron rod and eventually stripped, robbed and dumped on the roadside. After three surgeries at an Indian hospital, the woman was flown to Singapore on Thursday for further treatment. She died early on Saturday after suffering what hospital officials said were “signs of severe organ failure.
“This reprehensible crime reflects an alarming trend in India, which basks in its success as a growing business and technological mecca but tolerates shocking abuse of women. Rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. New Delhi recorded 572 rapes in 2011; that total is up 17 percent this year.
“And those are just the reported cases. Many victims, shamed into silence and callously disregarded by a male-dominated power structure, never go to the authorities to seek justice. Women are routinely blamed for inciting the violence against them. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old girl from Punjab who had been gang-raped in an earlier incident killed herself after police and village elders pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.
“India’s news media now regularly carry horrific accounts of gang rapes, and this has begun to focus national attention on the problem. But the rape of the 23-year-old woman seemed to take the outrage to a new level, prompting tens of thousands to protest in New Delhi and elsewhere across the country. Still, political leaders were slow to react. It was days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared on television to plead for calm and to promise to make India safer for women.
“Since the attack, six suspects have been arrested and the government has announced the formation of two commissions, one to identify police “lapses” and another to recommend ways to speed up sexual assault trials. Reforms are needed in the law enforcement system to make convictions more possible and punishments more convincing. And Indian leaders like Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party, must speak out more forcefully about bringing rapists to justice.
“More broadly, India must work on changing a culture in which women are routinely devalued. Many are betrothed against their will as child brides, and many suffer cruelly, including acid attacks and burning, at the hands of husbands and family members.
“India, a rising economic power and the world’s largest democracy, can never reach its full potential if half its population lives in fear of unspeakable violence.”
Scoutmasters and Boy Scouts
From Portland, Oregon, the location of Gone, Nigel Duara of the Associated Press (October 18, 2012) reports that “An array of local authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and town Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children, according to a newly opened trove of confidential files compiled between 1959 to 1985.
“At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret ‘perversion files’ released Thursday, Oct. 18, by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers protected suspected sexual predators while victims suffered in silence.
“The files document sex abuse allegations across the country, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.”
BBC’s Jimmy Savile and Adolescent Girls
Also in mid-October, 2012, Britain was shocked to learn that Jimmy Savile, a beloved host of television programs like “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It,” had sexually abused hundreds of underage girls for decades. These assaults were reported to have taken place at hospitals that Mr. Savile visited as a volunteer, in children’s homes and on the premises of the BBC.
The scandal has implicated the BBC for its failure to investigate rumors or take seriously accusations about his behavior at the time. It’s been reported that Scotland Yard is investigating doctors at these hospitals who may have helped Savile gain access to girls, covered up his sexual assaults and/or participated in the child abuse themselves.
In his article about the the arrest of Paul Gadd, better known as Gary Glitter, Nicholas Kulish reports in The New York Times (October 28, 2012).
“The case has shocked the nation and shone an intense spotlight on the BBC. Nagging questions remain there about why an investigation into Mr. Savile by the “Newsnight” program was abruptly canceled last December, and how much its executives knew about serious allegations that one of its stars had engaged in widespread sexual molestation in the 1970s and 1980s.”
“Everybody — the press, the police, people at the BBC — they knew that things were going on with Jimmy Savile,” Freddie Starr, an entertainer who appeared on Mr. Savile’s shows and who has denied allegations he also abused children, told reporters last week. “Everybody is guilty of this. You can put the finger on everybody at the BBC.” (“A Shield of Celebrity Let a BBC Host Escape Legal Scrutiny for Decades,” by John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times, November 2, 2012)
A different perspective from Freddie Starr’s is that those who were told about Saville’s sexual assaults on young girls refused to believe the accusations, even when they were made by his victims. For example, Sarah Lyall and Lark Tuner in The New York Times (November 11, 2012) report the experience of Deborah Cogger.
“[S]everal times over the years she called various British newspapers and tried to talk about what happened,” namely how Saville molested her at the Duncroft Approved School for Girls in the early 1970s. As recently as August 2011, Cogger called The Sun, “But they said, ‘It’s too controversial — we can’t touch it,’ she said.” Lyall and Turner report that at least six other girls who attended this reform school “have come forward with a tale of what Mr. Saville did and how he got away with it.” “His behavior was an open secret. ‘We all discussed it: What did he do to you this time?’ Ms. Cogger recalled. But the school did not seem to care, and girls who complained were stripped of privileges. If they became hysterical, they were shut into a padded isolation room for days, Ms. Cogger said, until they ‘calmed down and changed their mind.'” According to The Times article, when Cogger, then 14 years old, told her social worker, he “accused her of making it up.” When she called newspapers decades later, they said her story “was too explosive to publish.”
Lyall and Turner finish their report this way, “Finally, the day before ITV, a British television network, broadcast the documentary that exposed the allegations against Mr. Saville, The Sun went ahead with an article about Ms. Cogger. But she is still haunted by what happened, and by the years of having to bear it alone. ‘They pimped us out,’ she said of the teachers at Duncroft. ‘He was a big man, powerful man with a big voice, and we had no voices.'”
The documentary, “The Other Side of Jimmy Saville,” ran on ITV’s Exposure program on October 3, 2012. You can watch it in chapters on YouTube.
On July 30, 2014, The New York Times published an op-ed by Laurie Penny, “Britain’s Crime of Complicity,” that reported the government is going to investigate “not just the rape and assault of children at group homes going back decades [e.g., Saville’s crimes] but also accusations that child abuse by politicians and other public figures was deliberately covered up or even facilitated by members of the elite.”
Also in the July 30, 2014 issue of The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer reported that, “A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to curb the startling number of sexual assaults on college campuses.” This Senate action came in the wake of mounting news reports about rapes of U.S. co-eds. These assaults have occurred frequently; they have taken place at colleges and universities throughout the country; and the response by campus administrations has been deplorable.