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Gang Rape Shocks Brazilians


Now to Brazil and a horrifying story that shocked the country. This is where we need to tell you that this is a story that some listeners may find disturbing. It involves a brutal gang rape in the city that will be hosting the Summer Olympics. The girl, a minor, was apparently drugged and then allegedly assaulted by more than 30 men, some of whom posted graphic video on social media. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us from the city where this happened, Rio de Janeiro, and she's with us now. Lulu, thanks for joining us.


MARTIN: So how did this terrible story come to light?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is a terrible story. The girl - she's 16, and according to police she went to see her boyfriend one night. The next thing she knew, she woke up the following morning surrounded by a group of armed men. She was disoriented. She was in pain. She went home.

And then a few days later, a video surfaced on social media. The men who allegedly took part in the crime were seen in this video posing next to this brutalized girl. They were boasting about the gang rape in the most, you know, vile and crude way. And what was really additionally horrifying to many people here in Brazil is how it got shared on social media over and over again and how many people actually liked the video on Twitter.

MARTIN: What's been the reaction after that? I mean, you heard the initial answer was actually disgusting, you know, with people, you know, boasting about this. What happened next?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you know, Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world. And violence against women is very common here. Just to put this in perspective, a rape occurs every 12 minutes it's estimated here. But I think this has really shaken many Brazilians, and it kick-started a huge debate about what is being called the rape culture.

The fact that the men who did this posted the video of the assaulted girl, boasting about what happened, that they seem to see nothing wrong with what they'd allegedly done, the feeling of impunity that they displayed, that was very sobering to many people. And that also created a firestorm.

And we've seen now many, many protests demanding change in recent days, a very vigorous discussion from the highest levels of government about what this gang rape says about Brazilian society and its attitude towards women.

MARTIN: Have we heard from the young woman herself?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, we have. Today, there was an incredibly moving interview. In it she described how the men had insulted her, she was violated. And she said this quote - she said, "I feel like garbage. It feels like when people are looking at me, they're seeing a piece of trash. The stigma," she says, "is what really hurts. It's as if they're saying it's my fault. Oh, she was wearing a short skirt. Oh, she was the one who went to that part of town. I saw what people have been saying on Facebook," she told the Global News Network here. And her family says that they are considering leaving Rio de Janeiro in the wake of this.

MARTIN: What is being done about I mean, are any of these men being prosecuted? Have any of them been apprehended? What's happening?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, today we've seen the police make at least one arrest in the neighborhood where the rape allegedly occurred. This is in a very poor and violent part of Rio de Janeiro. They went in in force, you know, with helicopters. There was a brief firefight. It's a place that traditionally has a lot of armed groups operating.

And the interim president has announced that the government is going to set up a national task force to deal with sexual violence. He's going to be having an emergency meeting next week to discuss crimes against women. You know, I think Brazil is looking at itself in the mirror, and it's grappling with what it's seeing.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, with us from Rio de Janeiro. Lulu, thank you so much for speaking with us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.