This is an update on the story from Phoenix, AZ last month where 4 young Liberian refugee boys are charged with raping an 8 year old girl. When I saw the headline for this Arizona Republic story, “Side issue emerges in Liberian rape case,” I thought there was something new and earth-shattering, but the article only discusses some problems with nuances in how Liberians use the English language.
The article is however worth reading as an update and to note that they have linked a bunch of previous articles on the case so interested readers can catch up.
The Liberian 8-year-old refugee speaks English. The four Liberian boys accused of brutally raping her speak English. And the victim’s father speaks English.
Yet since the July 16 incident at a Phoenix apartment complex, the interaction among police officers, child-welfare officers and the refugee community has shown how complex language can be, even when everyone speaks the same tongue.
The police inquiry into the assault, which drew international attention, suggests that not everyone tied to the case may have clearly understood what was being said during the investigation, linguists and Liberian leaders say.
It sounds like this language issue will be used to take the tarnish off the reputation of the family of the little girl (and Liberians in general) because they supposedly claimed initially that they didn’t want their daughter back because she shamed them. We are now heading to a language confusion defense for all involved.