I'd like to take two minutes to talk about sexual assault.
Because that's how often someone in the U.S. becomes a victim of this violence. Every two minutes. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, nearly 250,000 people were raped or sexually assaulted across the U.S. in 2002.
Here, 960 rapes were reported by the Philadelphia Police Department in 2006. That is the number reported.
Which is where the media come in.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we haven't seen much written about it in the local papers or blogs. It seems like a troubling disconnect.
Jill Maier, of Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), agrees, but says she isn't surprised. "Sexual assault remains a topic that people, including the press, do not like to talk about. Although you do hear about cases on the news, these are typically high-profile serial rapists like the Fairmount Park rapist, a home invasion or clergy abuse.
Many of the cases publicized are "the extreme or the very violent cases," Maier says. But she says the reality is that victims of sexual assault know their attacker, who is usually a member of their family.
WOAR is holding its fifth annual fundraising walk and speak-out event on Saturday in Center City. Details on the event can be found here. Since the organization is the city's only rape-crisis center, its survival is crucial.
The media need to do a better job of communicating the realities of sexual abuse. It needs to improve the quantity and quality of sexual-assault coverage. Give victims an opportunity to speak out, if they want to. Let the community hear these survivors' tales, in their own words. Not the media's. The media "protect" the victims' identities by withholding their names, but perhaps that has proved more hurtful than helpful. By shielding them, we silence them. Take Back the News, a project dedicated to raising awareness, worked with newspapers across the country to "correct" the misrepresentation and underreporting of sexual assault in the media. It needs to happen in more places. Starting here.
It's not enough to publish these crimes after they happen. That's press-release journalism. Let's talk about sexual assault in terms of advocacy and awareness, so that we can help prevent it. It only takes two minutes.