by - Reina Rexhmataj

Another headline splashed across the front page attempting to capture the severity of rape with a 10-word title.

There is a mechanized response associated with these “types” of stories involving ample outrage, hashtag following, sharing of viral videos, and applauding high profile celebrities for condemning the act. Then, slowly, the shock dissipates, and next year an editorial is printed, briefly reflecting on the issue and a quote from the Minister of Social Welfare and Youth sharing her optimism about the progress made in the past year.

Has this type of news become part of our routine? Do we read the word rape, wince, have an internal physiological/emotional reaction and then flip the page because we know this story? We have heard it before and it would be too difficult to read yet another one? 

To sensationalize the story we need the hard facts. Start with the girl, her character, find the quintessential factor. She is 15 years old. She has a boyfriend. Use a myriad of adjectives to describe her playful personality, her charisma and social setting. Continuing with her academic and social achievements — her performance this year? Followed by her goals, dreams, and how realistic they are.

Post the intimate details, erase every ounce of privacy, distort the truth, shift the narrative. The goal is to evoke self-doubt and isolation. The phrase ‘preyed upon’ is your algorithm that will elicit a response with child as the keyword and abuse as its input.

Moving on to the family — character of the father, mother, siblings? Do they display signs of neglect and dismissal? Was she emotionally abused by her family leading her to repeat history? Their socioeconomic status? Perhaps, it wasn’t the most ideal situation. What are the neighbors’ perceptions? Can we try to catch a ‘raw’ moment of the family, one where we can see confusion in the siblings juxtaposing it with a moment of control from the father and hysteria from the mother? That will really captivate the audience, even though they are home, watching this from a screen, the intensity will evoke anger and disbelief. They will gasp raise their eyebrows, lift their hand to the mouth, scolding the rapist, the broken system and as the camera zooms in to capture a moment of vulnerability from the victim’s parents, those watching cannot resist thinking “I would never allow this to happen to my child”.

“Te rafte e mira ishalla. Si nuk e dishit ju more? Po e dini se si eshte shkatarruar ajo vajze? Dhe e quani veten prinder?”

“They are forsaken, how could they not know? How will they live with this?”

We have to be cautious in reporting the story of the alleged perpetrator. He has not yet been accused, let’s make sure we convey trust toward our judicial system. How long has he worked at the school? Try to see if there is someone that can speak to his nature.

She is lying on her bed, eyes fixated on the winding crack at the corner of the ceiling, the discoloring of the seemingly small area that from her angle defines the rest of the structure. It will never be the same, even if painted and patched up. She cannot recall her first memory of noticing the crevice. Frustrated for not remembering, and then instantly ashamed at how she is spending her time in the midst of this chaos, she circles back to the present. “I will probably need to speak to a lawyer. Maybe I should write things down so I don’t forget. I have to make sure I get the dates right.” She starts recounting the series of events. Instantly, her fists clench, muscles harden and eventually tears flow. She breathes. Her eyes widen, gaping at the deepest portion of the ceiling crack as her mind dives into a loop of infinite realities. “What if I had said something sooner? But to who? Dad? Mom? No. I couldn’t tell my friends. What if I pushed him or threatened him back the first time? But with what? What if I had also written something on the wall about him? Who would believe me? And if my friends saw, they would ask, and what would I say? What if …”

Header Image: Artist Unkown