Sensationalism in Hungary

On January 24 MTV's evening news announced that five nine-year-old boys raped a girl of the same age. It happened sometime last fall in the city of Szeged. It was after school hours on a playground next to a children's elementary school. Children whose parents work often remain at school where they can do their homework for the next day or can play and do sports under the supervision of a teacher. At five or six o'clock the parents come and fetch them.

One could ask how it was possible that the teacher didn't notice something unusual on that playground. The answer was that apparently under one of the swings there was a little plastic house (picture below) where the kids hid and where apparently these precocious little boys managed to rape a little girl. Another question: if this crime happened several months ago why it is only now that suddenly the whole country is full of this dreadful story? Colonel Szilvána Tuczakov, spokesman for the police in Csongrád County, mysteriously announced that "the police had investigated the case, questioned the children and their parents but no steps were taken because the children were all too young." It was also mentioned that the case was handed over to the Office of Child Services (gyámhivatal). Question marks multiplied in my head. Why now? Was there a crime that couldn't be prosecuted because of the young age of the delinquents? What does the department of social services have to do with the case?

In no time the electronic and written media were full of the story. The police spokeswoman tried to be tight-mouthed, but soon enough the journalists managed to find out in which Szeged elementary school the events must have taken place. They immediately questioned the assistant principal who again didn't say much except that "it is terrible what can be heard about the school but that's not what happened." Too bad that she was not more open because the story got fancier and fancier. One of the local politicians was also questioned and, although he didn't know anything official, he was ready to answer questions. Inaccurately.

Well, the ombudsman couldn't remain quiet under the circumstances, so he also put his two cents worth in. Again, not knowing the first thing about the case, he immediately took it for granted that a rape had occurred and that the "perpetrators were victims too because they were just imitating adults. The real criminals were the adults." He was sure that the "children must have seen something," most likely on the computer, video or television. It is so fashionable to accuse the media or the internet. The ombudsman decided that he was also an expert about physiology and sexual development and announced that "at such an age the sexual drive cannot be so strong and therefore it is necessary to find out what example they followed." Again without knowing anything about the details he immediately accused the teacher of negligence because she left the children unattended. He added that the children might be taken away from their parents and put under state protection.

Meanwhile a regional paper, Kisalföld, at the other end of the country seemed to have the most accurate information that they published on the very same day. The paper's reporter seemed to know that the teacher was innocent because "the children hid" from her. At last that paper, quoting an official in Szeged, mentioned that "it is not likely that rape occurred." After all, we are talking about nine year olds. A judge dealing with criminal cases mentioned that "this is an absolutely unique case." No wonder.

It seems that nobody read Kisalföld because all the big dailies kept repeating the rape story. Yesterday morning on Nap-kelte there were already questions posed by Zsolt Németh, a criminologist, about whether an actual rape had taken place. He blamed the police for not giving accurate information about the case. The same evening József Orosz in Kontra, a political radio program, inquired from a very knowledgeable child psychologist about the physical aspects of the question. That is, whether a nine-year-old boy could possibly have an erection or could ejaculate. The answer was an unhesitating no. That was something nobody had bothered to ask before. There were also rumors circulating that all five boys were Gypsies who had transferred to this particular school from a nearby "roma" school. As it turned out, that wasn't so.

What happened I'm sure is what happens all the time (even before the era of television and computers and without the need for bad examples). As children become curious about each other's anatomy they are willing to show their private parts to each other. Most likely something like that happened here, apparently with the consent of the girl. The whole thing couldn't have lasted long because by the teacher discovered the children in the little enclosure in the playground everybody was fully clad. See the crime scene here.Crime scene

By yesterday at last the principal decided to speak and announced that "there was no sexual assault. The children were just playing." The principal added that the girl was a willing participant in the game. The media managed to make a big deal from something "that every child does." According to her the police shouldn't have spoken of "sexual assault." Medical examination proved that no sexual act had occurred. However, according to the criminal code even touching sex organs constitutes rape in the legal sense. Oh, that criminal code. It is getting to be more and more interesting.