Why Is the U.S. Media Ignoring Rape in Syria?

Similarly, Soraya Chemaly piles on the evidence that, despite much attention being given to events in Syria of late, most of the coverage ignores the pervasive weaponization of rape or talks about it in sanitized terms.

Last Monday, for example, the Washington Post ran a lengthy story titled “In grim milestone, UN says number of Syrian refugees tops 1 million.” Like others pivoting around realization of the proportions of the crisis, the article was lengthy and detailed in its discussion of the causes, consequences and destabilizing regional effect caused by the massive out-flux of fleeing Syrians into neighboring states. The content and tone of the piece was similar to a July 2012 Congressional Research Service assessment summary to Congress, “Armed Conflict In Syria: US and International Responses.” It reviewed the Syrian state’s collapse and made recommendations for possible steps the U.S. should take. The report mentioned the importance of Syrian leaders’ “kinship ties” and fighters’ and community “morale” in the conduct and passage of ongoing conflict. However, it did not mention the fact that rape and sexualized violence, which at that time were already evident in humanitarian relief reports, are unique in the way they redefine “weapon” and “conflict,” affect kinship ties, communities and morale, and by extension, state security and disintegration.

The media is all about money. People publish what they think will get them more readers. I’m not saying this is right, but it is true. I suspect The Washington Post and others know that people don’t actually want to hear how widespread and hateful rape has become in Syria. And that statement—if true—is far more unsettling to think about than the errors of omission being committed by The Press.