Other reports of rape in the media

In 2002, the Mail & Guardian reported that a BBC documentary on the topic of infant rape had been condemned by MPs of the African National Congress before it was screened. South Africa’s news24 later reported that after seeing the film, the MPs, many of whom were members of Parliament’s committee on child abuse, actually approved of the film. News24 reported that one MP worried about the effect the film would have on the victim as she grew up but conceded that it was tasteful and that nobody’s human rights had been violated.

Another MP, Reverend Motlalepule Chabaku called it a “needed shocker,” but also noted that different documentary conventions would have been followed if the victims were white:

         “We still deal with human life on a racist basis. No matter how sincere the initiators (producers) could have been – if these were white or Caucasian children – we would not have seen their faces or their mothers’ faces.”

In 2010, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a column for the New York Times and included the stories of two underage rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Both the 9-year-old and the 12-year-old girls are named and their faces revealed in an accompanying video clip where they tell parts of their story. Kristof writes of their incredible courage and vows to continue reporting in this region, in an effort to effect change. He writes, “I’ll be reporting more from eastern Congo in the coming days, hoping that the fortitude of survivors like them can inspire world leaders to step forward to stop this slaughter.”

The choice he made to name the victims was an uncomfortable one. He later wrote about the ethical agonizing that went into his decision to name a child victim of rape and explained his reasoning process. In the end, he did name the children and he says he did so in the interest of advocating for rape survivors:

         “On the one hand, it’s impossible to get rape on the agenda when the victims are anonymous. Human beings just aren’t hard-wired to feel compassion for classes of victims, but for individuals… I’ve written about the research in social psychology and neurology that underscores that the only effective way to get people to care about a problem is to tell a story about an individual.”

Next: Public interest vs. personal harm: “just because a victim agrees to be named doesn’t mean you should do it”

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