Is Dell Hospital Collecting Donations for a Young Assault Victim Named Maria?
A years-old claim about an HIV-positive six-year-old girl at Dell Hospital continues to reappear on social media, and it remains entirely fabricated.
The post and its variations featured roughly the same all-caps text, with rotating images of a man as seen above:
THIS GUY RAPED A FIVE YEAR OLD LITTLE GIRL… HE RUINED HER LIFE SHE IS ALIVE & IN THE HOSPITAL CAN’T MOVE AND CAN NEVER HAVE CHILDREN, OR A NORMAL LIFE… THIS GUY GOES BY DIFFERENT NAMES HE IS IN HIDING & HAS AIDS. THE LITTLE GIRL CAME OUT POSITIVE. PLEASE HELP US CATCH THIS ANIMAL. EVERY TIME THIS MESSAGE IS FWD DELL HOSPITAL WILL DONATE $.15 TO MARIA’S MEDICATION & TREATMENT, PLEASE DONT HESITATE TO FWD, THIS COULD’VE BEEN YOU’RE DAUGHTER OR SISTER GOD BLESS. THANK YOU…
Although the version shown here was shared in February 2016, the rumor itself was far older. A Hoax-Slayer page about the rumor was originally published in November 2010 noted that the story first spread by email, via text, and on social media:
According to this message, which circulates via text, email and social networking websites such as Facebook, you can help five year old rape victim Maria simply by forwarding or reposting the information. The message claims that Maria is in hospital with serious injuries and illness after being brutally raped by a man who has AIDS. It further claims that Dell Hospital will donate 15 cents to help pay Maria’s medical expenses every time the message is forwarded to another person.
Fact-checking site Lead Stories revisited the rumor in March 2019, due to yet another version of the same rumor spreading once again on Facebook:
The post does not name the child — other than Maria — or the name of the alleged attacker. The photo of the alleged rapist has changed over the years.
The hoax photos of the man falsely accused of raping a little girl also seemed to be calculated to stoke racial hatred and further corrode public discourse as well as grifting the credulous. Lead Stories linked to an archived, undated alert from Dell Children’s Medical Center:
A false text message has been circulating that describes an incident involving a 5-year old girl. The message states that every time you forward it to someone, Dell Children’s Medical Center will donate 15 cents to cover the child’s healthcare expenses. This message is spam and is in no way affiliated with Dell Children’s Medical Center or the Seton Family of Hospitals. If you receive this message, please delete it.
According to Dell Children’s Medical Center, the message was little more than spam. However, as of 2019 the clarification was only available in archived form, making it slightly more difficult for readers to determine whether rumor was in fact a hoax. A reporter for Lead Stories contacted a Dell Children’s Medical Center representative about the rumor’s resurgence in 2019, and once again confirmed that there was no truth to the story.