Among the reporters interviewing students was Lisa Marie Petersen, who worked for The Record. Petersen recalls that she and another Record reporter talked to about 20 students that day. "Every one of them said the same things: The victim was a slut. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."
Many Ridgers denied that the alleged crime could have happened, because it didn't conform to their idea of a typical gang rape. The suspects were popular and handsome and didn't have any problem attracting girls. How could they be gang rapists? But experts who studied the case reached just the opposite conclusion: that what happened in Glen Ridge wasn't exceptional at all. It had all the elements of a classic gang rape. In fact, the very question raised by some of the townspeople—why would the most popular boys, leaders in the school and town, do something like this—highlights the similarities between this case and other gang rapes.
When psychologist Chris O'Sullivan studied 24 documented cases of alleged gang rape on college campuses from 1981 to 1991, she found that the elite group at the colleges was more likely to be involved. These included football and basketball players and members of the prestigious fraternities. Not only were these young men regarded as above suspicion on campus, but their elevated status also discouraged them from moral reflection; it made them feel entitled, she said.
There was another characteristic that was consistent with studies of gang rape. For the Glen Ridge suspects and their friends, life had always been centered around The Team. They played sports in which force and aggressiveness are prized. Bernice Sandler, an authority on date rape, found striking similarities between the Glen Ridge allegations and the rape cases she studied in universities. Of those college males, she said, "If they are not involved in a fraternity, they are members of sports teams. And it is team sports—football and basketball. It's never the golfers and swimmers." In 1986 an FBI survey found that football and basketball players were reported to police for sexual assault 38% more often than the average male college student. Around the time of the Glen Ridge case athletes at a number of universities—including St. John's, Oklahoma, Kentucky State, Wyoming and Minnesota—were charged with some form of sexual misconduct.
Researchers disagree over whether the force and aggressiveness required to succeed in some sports nurture a tendency toward the abuse of those who are weaker. But there isn't any argument that athletes form a special, distinct and often protected class of adolescents and young men in high school and college and that some of these men think their status entitles them to do whatever they want to women.
In this athletic hothouse, jocks make friends, shape common values and circulate their tales of sexual exploits. In Glen Ridge, as in many other American communities, belligerence, physical strength, competitiveness, a sense of superiority, winning above all—these qualities dominate all realms of boys' childhoods, from nursery school to high school graduation. Males who demonstrate such traits are cherished.
Many members of the jock clique grew up in isolation from girls; that is often a characteristic of young men who rape in groups. Their families were primarily male: Of the defendants actually charged with first-degree rape, only Bryant Grober had sisters. The rest had only brothers. Their immediate environment did not cultivate great empathy for women. Apart from athletics, the Glen Ridge guys engaged in few organized activities in the school and community—such as the baud or volunteer social service efforts—where boys and girls participated together on an equal footing, where they might have gotten to know members of the opposite sex as human beings worthy of respect. These Ridgers were taught that women's main purpose was to be decorative and to please and praise men. A girl who resisted this role was treated as one more opponent to be bullied into submission.
Slowly, the case moved through the clogged New Jersey criminal justice system. Along the way, Peter Quigley and Paul Archer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a mentally "defective" minor. They were required to perform community service. Eventually, all charges against Corcoran were dropped.
Finally, the number of defendants was pared down to four: Chris Archer, Kyle and Kevin Scherzer and Bryant Grober. When they went on trial in Newark on Oct. 15, 1992, they weren't boys anymore. In 1989, despite frequent visits to the weight room, they had been still growing into their bodies. Since then, their shoulders had broadened, their necks thickened. "When I took the case I was defending boys," said Louis Esposito, Kyle's lawyer. "Now, I'm defending men."
The separate counts of the indictment ascribed different actions to different individuals—Chris and Kevin inserting the bat and broomstick; Kyle covering the bat head with a plastic bag; Bryant Grober engaging in fellatio with Leslie.