Posted on September 13, 2005

When Whispers Should Be Shouts

Bethany L. Ruhe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sept. 12

With all of the media attention aimed at the lawlessness and looting in post-civilized New Orleans, one crime remained largely ignored: rape.

In the Superdome, according to a Reuters report, a 15-year-old girl was raped for four hours and her dead body left on a filthy bathroom floor.

An 8-year-old boy was raped and his dead body stuffed into a freezer.

A British student reports a man getting arrested for raping a 7-year-old girl in the bathroom.

Imagine what was going on in the streets.

Not only has there been a lack of coverage on these horrific crimes, there has been a lack of vocal response. Neither local nor federal government appears to have come forth to establish any type of crisis care for the women and children who have suffered. And if they have, it has gone ignored by the mainstream media.

This is a society that feverishly follows the story of pet and owner reunification but wants to hear nothing about the rape of its most vulnerable members at the nation’s most vulnerable time. The correlation between lawlessness and rape is a strong one. The combination of a lack of relief, a shortage of help on the ground and the social condition of those left to fend for themselves created a cauldron of hate and violence that allowed the seams of civility to be ripped apart.

Governments pass the buck. The media gear up for the death count and attempt to discover the fate of Snowball. But what about these forgotten victims? There are people who lost all they had; not just material possessions, but innocence, dignity and the right to be treated like a human being.

Yes, the devastation is widespread. And yes, relief efforts failed at many fronts. But water can be pumped out. Houses can be rebuilt. More products can be produced. But you can never replace what those who have been raped have lost.

And not only to have lost, but also to be ignored, is the biggest failure of all.