The following news story contains graphic details of the crime of child sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Twin Falls, Idaho was the site of horrible and brutal crime against a five-year-old girl. The sexual and physical attack of this tiny child was recorded on video by one of the attackers. The little victim was outnumbered by her attackers, over-powered by their size, and even more vulnerable because she was disabled. All three of the perpetrators were in the United States on refugee status.
The attack was only the start of the trauma in this case. The victim and her family faced a backlash from both the refugee community and local officials for reporting the rape. Even with the video of the crime, many pushed for the family to not report. There was more concern for the damage this crime might do to profitable refugee programs than for the victim. Some even denied the event occurred, but all three of the assailants recently plead guilty.
On June 2, 2016, three boys lured the five-year-old girl into the laundry room at the Fawnbrook Apartments in Twin Falls, ID. They cornered this child in the room and began to film their abuse of her. The boys were all living in the United States with their families as refugees. The youngest of the three boys was a 7-year-old from Iraq. The older boys, ages 10 and 14, were from Sudan.
The abuse was fortunately interrupted by an adult. This direct eyewitness reported to the police that the boys were not only attacking the girl but making a cell phone video of the crime.
The eyewitness was an 89-year-old resident of the apartment complex everyone called “Grandma Jo.” Jolene Payne, who is a retired nurse, suspected something was not right when she saw the 14-year-old boy taking pictures from outside of the laundry room. He was directing the actions of the kids inside. When she arrived at the laundry room, Payne described the scene:
“…the door was cracked enough for him to see the pictures he was taking. I opened that door and I almost fainted when I saw what was going on and I’m a nurse. What a pitiful thing for a poor little girl to go through. The little tiny white girl, 5 years old, was standing there with her clothes off. The two younger boys were also naked. The worst thing was the way they peed all over her clothes and on her too, and I thought that was one of the meanest things I’ve ever saw done. And we know those kids must know a lot more than kids in America of that age. I’ve never seen any of them do anything like that to little girls, and we have a lot of children around here.”
Because of the quick actions of Payne, the attack ended. As horrific as it was, it could have been worse without this adult stepping in. Initially, the father of the victim was pressured by the refugees living in the apartment community to not go to the police. Instead of showing concern for the brutal attack of his daughter, he was targeted as an enemy of the community for wanting help.
This pressure from the local community was intense. Their home was surrounded by many refugees attempting to intimidate the family. The father did not give into the pressure and cooperated with police.
During his initial contact with the police, he saw 30 seconds of the video the oldest attacker made. The victim’s father was unable to watch more; it included both the oral and anal rape of his daughter.
When this story first broke, there were some errors made in the status of the accused. It was reported that all three boys were part of a refugee program out of Syria. They were refugees, but they were not from Syria. This small bit of misinformation would be used to discredit the overall crime for many months. The local police and many within the legal system would make statements about this offense being a false claim and a way to pit locals against refugees.
Because the story was reported as a gang-rape involving refugees from Syria, media quickly dismissed the entire thing. Even though there were three attackers versus one much smaller victim, everyone insisted this was not a “gang-rape.”
The crime made big waves in the town of Twin Falls, with many pushing to rid the area of refugees. The area has a high concentration of refugees as they were brought in as part of a unique program to work in local factories. Local government had a lot to lose from these programs being chased out of town, so they went on the defensive.
A city councilman attempted to discredit the victim’s father with false reports that he was not even in the child’s life. This was posted on social media even though it directly contradicted eyewitness statements, police reports, and all of the other evidence. The local prosecutor attempted to tie this case to a group of citizens trying to hurt the refugees. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs went on the record to say:
“…there is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth.”
Beyond local officials, the Obama administration stepped into the mix. They were not coming in to help the family or the victim. They instead reacted to the mistakes made about the three rapists being from Syria and U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson issued the following statement:
“The spread of false information or inflammatory or threatening statements about the perpetrators or the crime itself reduces public safety and may violate federal law. We have seen time and again that the spread of falsehoods about refugees divides our communities.”
The actual victim of this crime was lost in the agenda to protect refugee programs. A little girl’s life was changed forever as her community fought to keep her attackers safe. There was too much money tied-up. This little girl was not a priority for anyone, including the U.S. Attorney making threats against outraged Twin Falls residents.
As the one eye witness to the crime pointed out, the scariest part of this ordeal for this child is the attackers themselves. The children are not like the innocent American children they are living alongside. The three perpetrators had sexual knowledge well beyond the average child. The acts caught on video point to these kids witnessing sexually explicit acts themselves.
While refugee programs bring in children and families that are escaping the dangers of their countries, are they also exposing American children to the horror of becoming victims? It seems it is not enough to bring large numbers of refugees into the country and give them jobs. The programs ignore the fate of unprepared communities to deal with crimes like this.
The attack that the local and national media tried to downplay quietly ended with a plea deal for all three attackers. It is not clear at this time what type of sentences they will serve, but the boys will be found guilty of the following charges:
“One defendant pleaded guilty to felony sexual exploitation of a child and misdemeanor battery. The second defendant pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting felony lewd conduct and aiding and abetting misdemeanor battery. The third boy pleaded guilty to accessory to the commission of a felony.”
Sadly this will not be the end for the family torn apart. Because the current refugee programs do little to address these issues, it is not unreasonable to expect that tragedies like this will continue.