A Tale of Two Stories

Day Two.

Actually, this isn't a tale of two stories, but two tellings of the same story—and it's a terrible (and possibly triggering) story about a Brazilian young woman, perhaps as young as 15, who was arrested on dubious charges, possibly just to serve as a sex toy for male prisoners, then reportedly left in a police cell with about two dozen men, where she was repeatedly raped until police finally transferred her to a women's facility. The incident is currently being investigated.

First, we'll look at how the BBC, whose headline is Brazil shock at woman's jail rape, reported it:

Authorities in Brazil are investigating reports that a young woman was left in a police cell with some 20 men for a month and repeatedly sexually abused.

…[Human-rights workers] say that she was raped relentlessly and forced to have sex in order to obtain food.
Pretty straightforward. It's a heinous scenario, and the Beeb doesn't mince words. What's being investigated is rape, repeated rape, over the course of a month, in addition to coerced sex in exchange for food (which itself meets the legal definition of rape). The allegations are clear, and they aren't soft-pedaled.

And now the AP, whose headline avoids the word "rape" altogether and instead reads Sex said forced on jailed Brazil girl:

A teenage girl was locked up on theft charges in an Amazon jail for weeks with 21 men who she said would only let her eat in return for sex, according to authorities, setting off a national scandal over the treatment of women by Brazil's justice system.

The 15-year-old said she was required to have sex with at least two inmates, police spokesman Walrimar Santos said by telephone Thursday from Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River, where the victim was transferred after nearly a month living with male inmates.

…Santos said the girl was not beaten or injured. But the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, which said it had access to private testimony after her transfer from the jail, reported she was tortured with lit cigarettes on her fingers and bare feet to force her to have sex. Her cellmates cut her hair to make her look more like a boy and difficult to recognize, Estado said.

She said her only reprieve from obligatory sex was on Thursdays — when intimate visits were allowed — and things "calmed down," Estado reported.
Obligatory sex? Jesus.

So, the AP makes the editorial choice to report the gruesome details of the allegations, but still can't find anyplace in its 781-word article to use the word "rape"—and, in fact, only refers to the crime of sexual assault (as opposed its ridiculous euphemisms) once, when it notes: "The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may have been victims of sexual assault."

And, worse than that, the AP frames the story from the outset as a he-said/she-said situation, alternating between what the police spokesman said in an interview (who, let's note, is effectively serving as a spokesman for the accused rapists) and what the victim reportedly said—while simultaneously burying that another allegation currently being investigated, beyond the undisputed fact that the police put this girl in a cell with men, is that they did so after arresting her specifically "for the sexual gratification of the prisoners."

It's just terrible, terrible reporting. And the whole "sex said forced" and "required to have sex" and "forced to have sex" and "have sex in exchange for food" and "obligatory sex" soft-pedaling is infuriating. There's no earthly justification for it, except to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of the people who are reading about this girl's horrendous ordeal from half a world away. And I'm not remotely convinced that's an honorable goal.

[H/T to Shaker Thom for the AP article and Jezebel for the BBC link.]

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