This morning, I was reading the latest (March 17) issue of Time magazine. It contains an article on the Darfur conflict, and how the lines between “good” guys and “bad” guys are blurring.

Of course, there are extended descriptions of the violence and of the impact of that violence. But somehow, the issue of rape is conspicuously absent.  In an article that is over 1,100 words long, the word appeared once, towards the very end of the article, as an after thought:

Amid continued militia and government attacks, it is Darfur’s civilians–both Arab and African–who suffer most. Battles last year drove more than 280,000 from their homes. Some find their way to Darfur’s swollen relief camps, home now to well over a third of the region’s population. But the camps are not immune to the violence. Many are controlled by the armed factions, and gangs of all stripes rob and rape many of those who venture outside. Other refugees wander Darfur’s unforgiving scrub, searching for a village or patch of land with some semblance of stability. Darfur’s humanitarian operation, already the largest in the world, struggles to service the displaced. Roads are a gauntlet of banditry, and attacks on relief workers are rising.

The word “woman?” It doesn’t appear in the article. Neither do the words “child” or “children.” Not once.

Can I possibly be the only one who sees something wrong with that picture?  Yes, the article is about soldiers.  It’s also about the extreme violence they have experienced and the atrocities that they commit. 

Nearly every source I’ve found (a dozen or so) say that the rates of rape in Darfur are impossible to tell. Women for Women International says that 2 million women have been raped — but this is since 1956, not 2003 where the current conflict officially “began.” We do know that approximately 200 rapes are reported every month(pdf), in a country where only a tiny, nearly negligible, fraction of women actually report sexual violence.

This is what we’re talking about (trigger warning): Women being raped in public. Women being raped in front of their husbands. Women being raped next to their dead husbands’ bodies. Women being raped in front of their children. Women being abducted and raped for days on end. Women having their legs broken so that they cannot escape during rape. Women being stabbed and otherwise mutilated during rape. Women becoming impregnated with the children of their rapists. Pregnant women being raped. Very small girls being raped. Very small boys being raped.  Women and children being raped and then murdered.  Almost all of these rapes will be gang rapes. Women who are raped will often become ostracized from their communities. Women who give birth to their one of their rapist’s children (in a country where the idea of a safe abortion laughable) may be welcomed back to communities, but only if they leave the child behind.

We are talking about systematic, genocidal rape.

As for the displaced? Between 70% and 80% of displaced persons in Darfur are women and children. (pdf)

Have we heard all of this before? Well, sure. But I’ve also heard about the murders and village razing before. I’ve read about the horrid conditions in refugee camps. I’ve heard it, and so have you, and yet Time felt that it was appropriate to mention all of these at relative length. 

They also found room to talk about cattle and camels being stolen. They found time to talk to men in the camps. They found room for a sentence about how the men in this camp didn’t have enough cups to go around.

I’m not trying to trivialize the impact of these relatively smaller atrocities. The loss of cattle and camels can result in a total lack of transportation and food. It can lead to starvation. Not having enough supplies to meet your daily life needs is sad and should not be considered acceptable under any circumstances.

But sadder than the widespread gang rape of women and children?

What the hell is up, Time?  Have you been hanging out with Heather MacDonald, and decided that just like the college rape crisis, the Darfur rape crisis doesn’t actually exist?  Does widespread murder make the potentially wider-spread rape not an issue?  Maybe you decided that the women deserved it, because no one made them leave the camp for firewood and it was their own choice to not want to starve or freeze to death? 

Hey, I’m just asking the questions.  Maybe the answer is much simpler than that: women just don’t need and/or deserve the same amount of attention that men do. It’s hard to cover all of those “special interest” groups when there are so many men — real people — to discuss.  And it seems to me that your editorial board instituted a bitches ain’t shit policy a long, long time ago.

You can write to Time at letters@time.com.  I end up writing to them every couple of weeks, and it doesn’t seem to do much good.  They never respond, never print my letters, and only very rarely print a letter with similar sentiments to the one that I sent.  But hey, power in numbers and all that. 

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{ 8 comments }

1 Pizza Diavola March 14, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Arghhhhh!!!! Thanks providing for the Time email address, once I stop shaking with fury I’ll write them, too.

I can’t believe that an article about the atrocities in Darfur would leave out rape! I understand that generally, the MSM doesn’t like to talk about rape except in vary specific circumstances, but in an article about freaking horrors, how do they leave out genocidal war crimes?

2 Kristen March 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm

They found room for a sentence about how the men in this camp didn’t have enough cups to go around.

My husband’s response is:

“Ah…so the real problem is a shortage in tableware. Women and children tortured and killed? What is that compared to the death of proper etiquette?”

It would be funny if it weren’t true.

3 sabrina March 15, 2008 at 4:57 am

It’s not only Darfur. Unless you read Alternet, you never hear of the widespread rape in other parts of Africa in the MSM. They’ll talk about refugee camps, and violence against men, but never against women. I guess rape is so common that its not even news.

4 Keren UK March 15, 2008 at 11:14 am

Thanks for posting about this, I read your blog everyday but haven’t commented yet. I always agree wholeheartedly with everything you say.

I’m sort of new to feminism and don’t always catch on/ have such quick reactions to things like this unless it’s pointed out to me, so I really appreciate it having blogs like yours to read.

5 Roxie March 23, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Lisa Ling did a special on Darfur that was a longish segement on Oprah where they did not shy away from the subject of rape.

I’m sorry, it was the Republic of Congo.
http://www2.oprah.com/tows/slide/200501/20050124/slide_20050124_105.jhtml

6 tdk2fe March 23, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Why can the term rape only apply to women? In conflicts such as these, soldiers readily sodomize men as well. While its not with their penises, having a rifle or other foreign objects shoved inside of you is no less atrocious.

7 Cara March 23, 2008 at 10:50 pm

The term does not apply only to women. Unfortunately in the world we live in, though, rape does apply primarily to women. I specifically mentioned the rape of boys, as they are certainly vulnerable. Though of course it could have something to do with the fact that men are even less likely to report rape than women are, I’ve heard few stories of men being raped, while stories of women being raped are depressingly rampant. I agree that rape and object rape of men is no less atrocious than rape against women, but I would counter that the two are different, on the basis that the vaginal rape of a woman with a penis carries the possibility of ongoing victimization in the form of being forced to give birth to her rapist’s child.

Also, this post was about how the issues of women are ignored and how the article is in fact all about the issues facing men while claiming to be about the issues affecting “people.” And it’s a feminist blog. That could have something to do with it, too. Denying that men are raped is an extremely different thing from failing to talk about the rape of men in a space where I have made it very clear that the focus is about issues affecting women.

8 tdk2fe March 24, 2008 at 12:23 am

Good points that I agree with. Although I think more often violence against women that involves sodomy would be reported in the media as rape, however violence against men involving sodomy is more often reported as simply violent crime. My point was really just that rape affects both men and women alike (albeit women more so).

As a side comment – I know this is a feminist blog :) And I appreciate you allowing different points of view in your little corner of the internet. I’ve been reading this blog mroe frequently now that it’s had a showing on the feminism subreddit (reddit.com) and I look forward to reading your entries in the future.

Regards

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