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
    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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora