To the Editor, I am writing with regard to the March 14, 2013 publication of The Hofstra Chronicle, Overheard @ Hofstrasection. Today was the first time in just over a year that I picked up a copy of The Chronicle, largely because I was disgusted with the paper's past publications that trivialized rape in the Overheard @ Hofstra section. As I flipped to the Overheard @ Hofstra section this afternoon, I was horrified to find another comment making light of violence against women.
In the Student Center:
Guy: So smack that b**** in her f****** mouth.
Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank statistics. The Center for Disease Control reports that in a 2008 study, twenty percent to twenty five percent of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape, but less than five percent of completed or attempted rapes against college women were reported to law enforcement. In two thirds of those incidents, the victim did tell another person, usually a friend, not family or school officials. This is not acceptable.
I wrote a letter to the editor almost a year ago to the day stating, "As Overheard @ Hofstra is one of the most widely read sections of the paper, I would expect that the staff would be more careful about the selection process of the material included." Clearly nothing has changed. Not only is The Chronicle continuing to trivialize violence against women by including these lewd comments in the "funny" section, but it is failing to report on the real issues of campus rape and violence, here at Hofstra, and throughout the country.
In twenty four hours, Change.org has collected over ninety thousand signatures for a petition demanding that CNN "apologize on air for sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists." The petition has largely been fueled by the social media backlash against the network's coverage of the verdict and CNN's victimization of the two men found guilty of rape. It is "jokes" like the ones The Chronicle is publishing that perpetuate our culture of shaming and blaming victims while not seriously addressing larger issues of rape and violence. Up to seventy percent of women experience violence in their lifetime, according to country data available. Where is the reporting on it? Where is the coverage of the Violence Against Women Act? Where is the discussion on the Steubenville case? Where is the real reporting on date rape, sexual harassment, and violence on our own campus?
Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, announced that he will convene a grand jury to investigate who disseminated the photos and videos of the victim, noting that sixteen people refused to talk to investigators about the crime. He later added, "I'm afraid people are going to walk away and say this was all about Steubenville. It's not. It's a cultural problem...I'll guarantee that there are crimes very similar to this that occur every Friday night and every Saturday night in communities across this country." If we continue to trivialize violence against women, brush these atrocities under the rug, and perpetuate the myth that it doesn't happen in our own communities, we are as guilty as the perpetrators of this savagery.
On behalf of the entire Hofstra community, I request a formal apology from The Chronicle, a retraction of the comment, and demand that more consideration be put into the selection of material for Overheard @ Hofstra and real attention paid to the serious issues of violence against women in The Chronicle's reporting.
Etana Jacobi The Harry H. Wachtel Leadership Scholar & Herman Goldman Foundation Democracy Fellow
Center for Civic Engagement, Hofstra University
Assistant Director, L.I. Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives