Ten Los Angeles high school students have been arrested for their roles in a series of sexual assaults involving two underage girls. The attacks, which intensified of late, went on for over a year, say police, who are looking for four more suspects.
The Los Angeles Police Department believes the sexual assaults started in December 2013 and occurred both on and off the Venice High School campus. As time passed, the attacks became more and more frequent in nature, with the majority of the sexual assaults occurring within the past two months. LAPD spokesman, Commander Andrew C. Smith, spoke at a news conference held on Friday, and said that some of the assaults were forced while others were consensual; however, the victims were underage and could not legally give consent to the acts.
In order to prevent further sexual assaults, police arrested eight of the students at the school on Friday. A ninth suspect was taken into custody off campus, while a tenth suspect turned himself in at a police station. The ten boys currently in custody are aged from 14 to 17. They have been charged with lewd acts with a minor and sexual assault. According to local news outlets, some of the boys arrested played for the school’s basketball and football teams.
Commander Smith told the Los Angeles Times that the arrests were made during school to prevent other girls from being victimized. “The last thing we wanted was to have another victim,” he said. Although the exact ages of the victims were not provided, the charges filed against the suspects indicate that either one or both girls were below the age of 14 during one or more of the sexual assaults.
Los Angeles police investigators with the Special Assault Section began investigating the sexual assaults on Tuesday after receiving a report from school administrators. The Times spoke to a source within the district who said they were notified of the sexual assaults by students who told them about the existence of images of the sexual assaults on social media.
Police revealed that they are in possession of physical evidence related to the sexual assaults, but would not go into detail on what the evidence might be. The Times is reporting that a photo of a sexual assault being committed was discovered. In addition, The Times said that a photograph of two teens during the commission of a sexual act had made the rounds on social media.
If photographs or videos of the alleged sexual assaults exist, more charges could be levied against the boys. The making and distributing of images containing sexually explicit behavior involving juveniles is against the law. Smith said that detectives are searching for any of these photos or videos.
Detectives have interviewed both of the victims “at length,” says Smith. Sources speaking to The Times say that some of the sexual assaults were committed by several boys at once, and that the girls complied because of the threats made by the boys to ruin their reputations if they did not.
The Los Angeles School District released a statement to say that it is cooperating with police during the investigation. Ramon C. Cortines, the interim superintendent of the district, said that school officials had notified parents of the arrests. The district is offering crisis counseling to any students affected. Cortines added that news of the sexual assaults were “painful” for the school and the district, adding that “no sexual misconduct of any kind by students or staff will ever be tolerated in L.A. Unified.”
In an interview on school grounds with KCAL-TV, a student claiming to be the girlfriend of one of the boys arrested said that he is denying the accusations against him. She continued by saying that he asserts his innocence and that “he didn’t do nothing bad to that girl.”
By Jennifer Pfalz
Image by Laurie Avocado – Flickr License