Excerpt of Ms. Magazine blog post by GJC Communications Manager Liz Olson.
As hundreds of thousands of Rohingya survivors fled to Bangladesh over the past two years, the abuse they suffered in Burma has made headlines.
Their stories are horrific—recounting brutal episodes of torture, murder and sexual violence, often committed in public and in front of family and community members. In different ways, so are their experiences with the press.
Some Rohingya survivors of sexual violence have reportedly been interviewed as many as 70 times each by media outlets, UN bodies and non-governmental organizations—posing serious challenges to the health and safety of survivors and to future justice efforts.
At first glance, the idea that sexual violence can be over-documented may seem counterintuitive. Don’t we want as much evidence as possible to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes? In practice, however, uncoordinated and overzealous documentation harms both accountability efforts and the well-being of survivors.
The adage that “sex sells” is true in advertising and seems equally true in reporting, even in the coverage of atrocity and human rights abuse. As journalists and advocates cover stories of sexual violence in conflict, we must make sure not to sensationalize or exploit survivors’ suffering in order to make an impact.