August 31, 2015 00:32 UTC

As It Is

Activists, News Media Examine Reporting of Rape

Missing Women Found
Missing Women Found

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
From VOA Learning English, welcome to As It Is.

Hello, I’m Steve Ember. Thanks for joining us.

Activists and news reporters are questioning how media around the world report rape and other sexual abuse. The Oxford Journal of Public Health has called on world media to improve reporting on sexual violence against women. The magazine says the media too often concentrate on a few crimes -- and fail to make sense of the larger issue of sexual violence.

“We need to challenge those attitudes that, first, excuse violence by men and, secondly, disparage and denigrate women.”

Rape – and other forms of sexual abuse – will be our focus on this edition of As It Is.

Media reports this year have told of many extreme sex attacks. In New Delhi, a group of men rape a young student on a bus. She later dies from her injuries. A teenage girl in South Africa is also gang raped. She also dies of her injuries. A Swiss woman is gang raped in front of her husband during a visit to India.
In the United States, young athletes abuse a girl who is unconscious and send out pictures of the sexual abuse on their mobile phones. And, most recently…

[Amanda Berry 911 emergency call]

Three missing women are rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio where they have been held and sexually abused for many years. 
                                                                                                 
Women in public health and in media are calling for reporting that leads to social change. They are also calling for an end to reporting that blames the victim. 
The United Nations says that women age 15 to 44 are “more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.”

Janice Du Mont is a scientist at the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, Canada. She and Deborah White of Trent University wrote an editorial about rape for the Oxford Journal of Public Health. It is called Sexual violence: what does it take for the world to care about women?

Janice Du Mont says the media do not give a clear picture of the large numbers of rape that take place.  She says western media often report on incidents in other places.    

“Rape is not just India’s shame. It occurs everywhere, you know, regardless of culture or socio-economic status.”

She says the media seem interested in some rape cases, but not others.

“These are the more shocking cases. So cases in which women are gang raped or raped by more than one assailant. You know, these cases   are not really representative of the full sort of realities of sexual assault, especially in non-conflict settings.” 

Janice Du Mont says it is much more common for women to be attacked by someone they know, including husbands and other family members. She says these attacks harm society.

“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.”

Doctor Du Mont says rape victims may suffer from depression – continuing severe sadness -- or live in fear. They may leave school or even attempt suicide. In some cultures, the victim is forced to marry the attacker. Or she is killed in the name of family honor.

Janice Du Mont says any rape harms both rape survivors and their community. She says the problem is made worse by lack of information, false beliefs and blaming the victim.

“I think it’s these pervasive negative attitudes and stereotypes about women who are raped and rape, in general. 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.”   
                                    
The editorial in the Journal of Public Health also told about a report by a Nigerian writer, Amaka Okafor-Vanni in the Guardian newspaper.  She criticized what she called a culture of rape in Nigeria. Miz Okafor-Vanni called for an end to social rules that demand modesty from women but punish women when men fail to honor their modesty.                                                                                          

Experts Du Mont and White want others working in women’s health care and public health to help reporters understand the whole story Experts Du Mont and White want others working in women’s health care and public health to help reporters understand the whole story of rape. They are calling for media reports that will explain the “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.” 
                                              
The Women’s Media Center and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health held an event this winter to educate reporters and public health students. Helen Benedict spoke at the event in New York. She also writes a blog for the Women’s Media Center web site page called “Women Under Seige.” She criticized media in the United States for failing to ask why men rape. She says reporters instead ask questions about the rape victim.

Reporter Mallary Jean Tenore sees differences in reporting on three main topics: the victims, the suspects and cultural beliefs about sexual attacks. Writing on the journalism website Poynter.org, she gives the example of Indian reporter Sameera Khan.

Ms. Khan writes that usually police make moral judgments about the victims and the Indian media simply repeat them. But she praised the reporting in the case of the young student in New Delhi. Ms. Khan says she thinks the improved reporting came about because of the angry response of average people in India who wanted justice for the victim. She says the media reflected the feeling of the protesters.                                                                   
Janice Du Mont says sexual attacks are underreported around the world. She says Canada’s most recent survey is 20 years old. This month, the United States military reported a 35% increase in unreported sexual attacks since 2010.

President Obama immediately called for stronger enforcement to prevent abuse in the military. The report was released two days after police arrested the chief of the Air Force office that deals with preventing sexual attacks. He is accused of a sexual attack. 
                                                                                       
Rape has also become a weapon of war. A recent report by the International Rescue Committee says rape is a major and troubling feature of the Syrian civil war. The U-N says hundreds of thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been victims of sexual violence.

And that’s our program for today. Remember, for the latest world news, tune in at the top of the hour Universal Time on radio, or visit our web site.
I’m Steve Ember. Thanks for joining us.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
05/21/2013 6:58 AM
I understand possibly-dayly and secretly-happenning sexual abuses for example by victim's partners are not newsworthy for journalism. They can not help paying attention to shocking incidents in order to atract readers' eyes and get more subscriptions. So, efforts by activists and researchers to make general people aware of such covered sexual violence is important for preservation of women's rights as pointed out in this news.


by: A Japanese from: JAPAN
05/16/2013 8:41 AM
I hope that your VOA abolish As It Is program itself. It is too heavy for teen leaners to listen to and read this kind of English. Please get back to news and others and then 15 min programs. If it is news, it would be fine for international issue and sexaul one. However, it is too bad to read your American thoughts and comments. I hope that your director re-consider to continue this As It Is program. I cannot let children to hear this and international issue to blame some countries. More hatred towards Americans may grow in some countries.

In Response

by: Doris from: Orlando
05/16/2013 4:19 PM
what do you say? I think you are wrong.

In Response

by: sushanin from: Bangkok
05/17/2013 6:11 PM
Looking at the bright side, As it is. Program is really useful in many ways of life. Teens should learn how to save themselves and to avoid being a maltreatment's victim by studying the real cases, accompanying with parents' clear explanation and right advice. Imagine teens never know that violence, crime, and accident can happen at any time, how can we reduce immoral acts?

Learn with The News

  • Audio Serena Williams Chasing History at US Open

    The U.S. Open tennis tournament begins Monday in New York City. It is the last opportunity for 127 women to win a ‘Grand Slam’ title this year. And it is a chance for one player, Serena Williams, to win a place in history. A victory would give Williams a rare 'calendar-year Grand Slam.' More

  • Diana Kuya is a student at the University of Nairobi.  She plans to start her own agribusiness once she graduates.

    Video More Kenyans Exploring Agricultural Businesses

    Kenya is facing high unemployment rates. Recent college graduates face a difficult time in finding a job. Now, more and more Kenyan university graduates are planning to start pursuing agricultural business -- 'agribusiness'-- as way to have their own business and make money. More

  • Video Student Develops Gun Unlocked by Fingerprint

    Kai Kloepfer has a talent for technology. He has been teaching himself engineering skills since he was a child. He decided to create a gun designed to prevent accidental shootings. More

  • Audio Is China’s Economic Information Correct?

    An American expert on China says the Chinese government is not influencing information about the country’s economic growth. He believes that the economy is changing quickly. And he says the ways of measuring new economic activity is unable to keep up with the changes. More

  • Audio Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans Is a Different City

    On the anniversary of storm, President Obama and other officials recognize efforts to remake a city famous for its culture and music. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Fun with Future Tenses

    English has several ways to talk about the future. It's one of the most flexible tenses in English. We visit some popular songs for examples of the future forms. Read and listen as the Everyday Grammar team shows you six ways to express an event in the future. You will not regret it! More

  • Video A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce

    Carter Druse lived in Virginia, a southern state during the American Civil War. He had a tough decision to make - should he join the Confederate Army or the Union Army? Read this classic American Story to find out what decision he makes, and what it means to his father and fellow soldiers. More

  • Audio Betty Azar, 'Rock Star' of English Grammar

    It all started with a question from a student. The year was 1965. Betty Azar was teaching her first English as a Second Language class at the University of Iowa. A student from the Middle East asked Ms. Azar, “Why can’t I put a in front of water?’ As in ‘I drank a water.’” More

  • Audio Millions with Mental Illness Get Little or No Treatment

    The World Health Organization reports that hundreds of millions of people worldwide have a mental disorder. However, the WHO adds that most get little or no treatment. Learn the vocabulary needed to talk about this important study. More

  • Hoarding

    Video Could Organizing Your Home Change Your Life?

    A new movement in the United States is all about clearing away unnecessary things in your life. A Japanese cleaning expert on clutter is now the hot topic on playgrounds, at work and parties. But can cleaning out clutter really help you succeed at your job or lose weight? Read on to learn more. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs