By now you've heard the shocking news about the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl that has resulted in the arrests of 18 men and boys in a small Texas town.
The gang rape, and its aftermath, have stirred racial tensions in Cleveland, Texas, a town of 9,000 about 50 miles north of Houston.
The 18 suspects are all black and the girl is Hispanic.
"It's becoming a black and white issue because it happened over in the quarters. It's segregating our community again," said Brenda Myers, who runs the Community and Children's Impact Center in Cleveland, one of the few programs for Cleveland's youth. "The reaction is anger, devastation."
The sexual assaults took place on Nov. 18 after a 19-year-old man convinced the unidentified girl to take a ride with him and two of his friends. They eventually ended up in a dilapidated blue house on the outskirts of town. The men ordered the girl to disrobe. She later told police they threatened to have older girls beat her up if she didn't comply.
The men were later joined by other males from the neighborhood who got on their cell phones and invited their friends. When an adult relative of one of the males approached the house, the group, including the girl, fled out of a rear bedroom window. She left behind her bra and panties.
The group moved to a dingy, abandoned trailer where the sexual assaults continued. Police believe a total of 28 men and boys had sex with the girl.
Retiree Joe Harrison said he spotted the 11-year-old standing outside the abandoned trailer earlier that day. To him she looked older than her 11 years. She wore dark makeup and long hair. He later heard loud music blaring from the trailer. By then he thought the girl had been picked up by her mother.
Some of the suspects videotaped the assaults on their cell phones and shared the videos with friends at school. The gang rape was brought to the attention of police after the videos went viral.
The girl's mother, Maria, has seen her daughter only one time since Child Protective Services placed the girl with a foster family and restricted the family from even speaking to her.
Officials brought the girl to visit her mom when Maria was hospitalized recently with an illness.
"My daughter was crying and crying and hugging on me," Maria said. "She didn't want to leave. She misses her family and wants to come home."
Police suggested relocating the family to a different city due to death threats. Several of the suspects are star athletes at Cleveland High School. One of them is the son of a school board member. All are visible in the videos assaulting the girl.
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