News / Africa

Better Coverage of Rape is Needed

Indian protesters hold placards during a protest to demand for tougher rape laws and better police protection for women, outside the Parliament in New Delhi, India, April 22, 2013.
Indian protesters hold placards during a protest to demand for tougher rape laws and better police protection for women, outside the Parliament in New Delhi, India, April 22, 2013.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua
A recent editorial in the Journal for Public Health calls on the media to do a better job of reporting on sexual violence against women. It says, too often, the media focus on sensational crimes and fail to reveal the full scope of the problem.


Last December, a young woman in India was fatally gang raped. In February, a teenage girl in South Africa was gang raped and mutilated. She also died of her injuries. In March, in India, a Swiss tourist was ganged raped in front of her husband and in April a four year old girl died from injuries after she was raped. These and other horrific sexual assaults received a lot of international media coverage.

The United Nations says hundreds of thousands of cases of male-female rape - or attempted rape - are reported to police every year. But experts believe that figure is far below the actual number of attacks because many go unreported out of fear of stigma or retaliation.

Citing World Bank data, the U.N. says that women – aged 15 to 44 – are “more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.”

Dr. Janice Du Mont, a scientist at the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, and Dr. Deborah White of Trent University wrote an editorial about rape for the Journal of Public Health. It’s titled Sexual violence: what does it take for the world to care about women? Du Mont said that the media do not give an accurate picture of how pervasive the problem is.

“So much of the recent – and I guess past media coverage, as well – of sexual assaults seems so skewed. For example, the Western world – Canada, the United States, et cetera – there’s been this tendency to focus in on cases that occur in other countries, which is problematic. Rape is not just India’s shame. It occurs everywhere, you know, regardless of culture or socio-economic status.”

Du Mont said the media are drawn to particular types of rape cases.

“These are the more shocking cases. So cases in which women are gang raped or raped by more than one assailant, savagely beaten. Or more recently in terms of coverage in the Western world, it’s cases in which women are sexually assaulted while unconscious, or near unconsciousness, and then the assaults photographed and further exploited on social media. You know, these cases are not really representative of the full sort of realities of sexual assault, especially in non-conflict settings,” she said.

It’s much more common, she said, for women to be sexually assaulted by a single male that they know – husbands, boyfriends, other family members, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. These attacks, she says, often occur in private settings. Du Mont says she understands that the media will choose to report what they deem “newsworthy.”

“I guess the point we would like to make is that these other more common forms of sexual assault that may not be deemed newsworthy have a huge toll on the individual and society as a whole. You know, have immediate and lingering effects. They result in a lot of pain and suffering, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections. Women may become depressed or anxious, attempt suicide, miss school. There are costs to the medical and mental healthcare system, police and investigative costs. In some jurisdictions, women are forced to marry the assailant or they’re killed in the name of honor.”

Women do not have to be killed or savagely beaten for rapes to take a toll. She said the problem is made worse by ignorance, myths and stigma.

“I think it’s these pervasive negative attitudes and stereotypes about women who are raped and rape, in general. This huge rape mythology that women ask to be raped. They deserve to be raped. Women lie about rape. And we need to challenge those attitudes, but also practices and policies that, first, excuse violence by men and, secondly, that disparage and denigrate women,” she said.

The Journal of Public Health editorial quotes former Canadian journalist Dr. Shannon Sampert of the University of Winnipeg. She said, “Journalists do not operate in a vacuum. They are subjected to the same myths and stereotypes to which the rest of society is exposed.” She added, “Journalists work in an environment that requires that stories are novel, contentious and scandalous.”

In 2011, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or were victims of attempted rape.

Du Mont said, “We know that sexual assault is really under reported. In Canada, for example, we haven’t had a really good national population-based survey for some time. But we did have one back in 1993 that was replicated in many other different countries globally. And it was found that 39 percent of Canadian women had experienced a sexual assault since age 16. But when they asked these women about reporting those sexual assaults to the police only six percent of those sexual assaults had been reported.”

Du Mont and White write that “it is incumbent upon those…in the field of women’s health to assist journalists in more accurately reflecting the true nature and multitudinous psychological, physical, social and economic costs of all types of sexual violence.”

“It is about exerting power and control over somebody else. It’s not related to sex. It’s related to abuse of power and control,” said Du Mont.

Rape also has become a weapon of war. The U.N. says hundreds of thousands of women in the eastern DRC have been victims of sexual violence. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, it’s estimated up to 500,000 women may have been raped and up to 50,000 during the Bosnian conflict.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid