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sexual assault

Defiling images of dead women in journalism for page clicks

There is a story today in USA Today that broke my heart. Two girls, it is not clear whether they were sisters or cousins, needed to use a field to go to the bathroom because there were no toilets. They were gang raped, murdered, and their bodies left hanging. They were 14 and 15.

According to USA Today, “Indian TV footage showed the villagers sitting under the girls’ bodies as they swung in the wind, and preventing authorities from taking them down from the tree until the suspects were arrested.”

I don’t know about you, but that is a pretty clear image for me. I don’t need a photo to show me more. However, USA Today (and likely countless news organizations) got what I assume is a still of the TV footage via the Associated Press and it’s online accompanying the story. Do we really need to see two dead teenage girls swinging from a tree to be horrified and enraged beyond belief? 

 

And then there is the advertisement for Verizon that sits to the right of the image. Murdered teenage girls on the left, a time limited offer for Verizon on the right.  

Has it come to this that we must further defile young women, murdered in the most heinous of ways, by posting pictures of their dead bodies to bolster news stories? Must we plaster their images everywhere in the most gratuitous of ways and then slap on advertisements as if looking at two dead girls is nothing more or less than looking at a story about who was wearing what on the red carpet?

Rape and murder are horrific, we shouldn’t need images to show us that and adding advertising on the same page is so foul I just don’t even have words.

This is not journalism, it is sensationalism and it must stop.

 

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Defiling images of dead women in journalism for page clicks

  1. Jen…I agree with you!

    Posted by Bob Patterson,MD | May 29, 2014, 2:22 pm
  2. Sensationalism is everywhere, even the history channel is obnoxiously sensational. It will require a real drastic change in our values to change this idea underlying everything that money is more important than decency and profit makes all the rules. I believe that we are ready for this change and it will come from diverse places, Christians will not necessarily be the leaders, they can be part o f it, secularists, indigenous and awake individuals of all kinds will lead it, I think and hope.

    Posted by Jennarose | May 29, 2014, 3:21 pm
  3. “Rape and murder are horrific, we shouldn’t need images to show us that and adding advertising on the same page is so foul I just don’t even have words.”

    Actually we do need images to show us how horrible rape and murder are. During World War 2 nobody believed that what was happening in concentration camps was real until the allies started liberating concentration camps and bringing back pictures of the conditions the people inside the camps were subjected to.

    Its the same thing with rape and murder. People need to have the option of being shown the end results of rape and murder. In the case of rape it should be up to the victim/survivor to choose whether or not she/he wants to show the images/videos relating to the rape or not. In the case of murder that choice should be with the family of the victim.

    People are willing to call the Holocaust a hoax today even with pictures and written survivor accounts of the horrors of the concentration camps and i don’t need to tell you what misogyny and rape culture do to rape victims and survivors on a regular basis in our society.

    Also I found another article on this case of gang rape and it seems the girls were sisters and that they belonged to the Dalit caste of the Indian society, also known as the “untouchables”. I would link to the other article but I will assume you do not want any links on this story in your comments. In this case the local Dalit community has chosen to protest the rape and murder of these girls in a way that is there to serve in the creation of an image that is meant to energize outrage over India’s rape culture and Dalit discrimination problems.

    None of this is a defense of the way USA Today handled breaking this news. The other article I read had used an image of Dalit women protesting against another gang rape of Dalit girls that had happened earlier this year. USA today could have left a link with a trigger warning to the video or images from the video reporting on this crime. And also don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity: USA Today has article templates that automatically put in ads and links to other articles. While assembling this article nobody thought even for a second how the placement of the ads might influence the way the article would look like in the eyes of the readers.

    Posted by dmol8 | May 30, 2014, 12:22 am
    • “Actually we do need images to show us how horrible rape and murder are. During World War 2 nobody believed that what was happening in concentration camps was real until the allies started liberating concentration camps and bringing back pictures of the conditions the people inside the camps were subjected to.

      Its the same thing with rape and murder. People need to have the option of being shown the end results of rape and murder. In the case of rape it should be up to the victim/survivor to choose whether or not she/he wants to show the images/videos relating to the rape or not. In the case of murder that choice should be with the family of the victim.”

      Thank you. I was going to write much the same thing. Yes, we do need to see this picture. We need to recoil in shock and horror at the visual evidence of what humans can do to other humans. It doesn’t defile those girls’ memory to see their brutal, vicious deaths. It honors them. It honors the villagers who wouldn’t let them be cut down until the men accused of their rape and murder were arrested (they included two police officers, which is why the villagers thought letting the police just take the bodies away was a bad idea). It reminds us, in a visceral way that words simply cannot mimic, of the very real costs of inequality and misogyny.

      The ad was in poor taste. I agree that it was inexcusable. But the picture itself? That needs to be seen. If pictures were not so powerful, why would government do things like prevent pictures of dead soldiers’ caskets from being published? It is because some things really do need to be seen to be believed, to be witnessed, to be understood in the gut.

      Posted by M | May 30, 2014, 2:00 am
  4. Dr. Gunter, I almost always agree with your viewpoints, but nit this time. US new sites have hidden the gruesome reality of violence against women and children to protect our sensibilities. The same occurred when the Syrian government gassed their citizens including children. The NYT showed video, and the power of the horrible images helped change the debate. The images don’t have to be click bait, they are news when used with responsibility.

    Posted by Pkin | May 30, 2014, 6:28 pm
    • I agree that images, even very disturbing ones have their place. However, they need to be treated with more respect otherwise it is desensitizing instead of sensitizing. IMO the photo with no ads and just a one or two line description says it all. Many publications do a wonderful job with difficult images, but this just struck me as more abuse rather than a call to arms and a cry against violence.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | June 1, 2014, 7:15 am

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