Obfuscating Rape

Turns out there are multiple ways of obfuscating rape in the news.

This news story, for example.

[cut for child rape triggers]

Man Pleads Guilty to Impregnating 10-Year-Old.

Uh, what now? It’s the impregnation that’s the crime? So he didn’t rape her or anything, this was just felony contraceptive failure?

An Abbeville man pleaded guilty Tuesday to impregnating a girl when she was 9 years old. In January 2006, William Edward Ronca, who was 26 at the time, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Ronca was arrested after the girl was found to be seven to eight months pregnant. A school guidance counselor told the girl’s mother that the child was acting withdrawn and was not participating at school. The girl was taken to Abbeville County Memorial Hospital, where the pregnancy was confirmed.

Arrest warrants said that Ronca had been having sex with the girl for more than a year, and told her not to tell anyone.

The FUCK? “Having sex with” a nine-year-old? How do you “have sex with” a nine-year-old? Don’t mention the rape!

The story goes on:

At the time of the arrest, the mother told a newspaper that she did not know her daughter was pregnant.

In emotional testimony, the girl’s biological father said instead of enjoying her childhood, his 10-year-old daughter had to undergo a Caesarean section delivery.

He said his daughter will never be a child again — that every time she undresses and sees the stretch marks and scars from the surgery, she is reminded about what happened. The father cried as he said how difficult it was for him to watch his daughter giving birth and having a C-section at such a young age.

Or maybe, y’know, she’s traumatised because she was SYSTEMATICALLY RAPED FOR TWO YEARS OF HER CHILDHOOD. Not just because she has a few stretch marks and a scar.

He also admitted that the sexual relations with the child had been going on once or twice a week for about two years.


Categories: gender & feminism

Tags: , ,

8 replies

  1. Particularly bizarre when on the very same page in the “Related Stories” sidebar box they have these headlines:
    * Phoebus High senior charged after relations with 14-year-old girl
    * Student, 17, faces sex assault charge
    * Man Accused Of Sexual Assault On Teen
    * Man Accused Of Raping Girl, Fathering Teen’s Baby
    So why the difference?

  2. I notice that you link to the MSNBC version of the story, which hasn’t seen the same updates as the original. I seem to remember reading something about this on Pandagon (possibly Feministe?) and a commenter mentioning that complaints to the news affiliate had gotten them to make some changes — I can’t find a reference for that, though.
    The affiliate’s updated version is not quite as bad:
    An Abbeville man pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping and impregnating a girl when she was 9 years old.
    Arrest warrants said that Ronca had been ”having sex with the girl” — note the quotes, to (presumably) make it clear that that’s what the warrant said, in so many words — which might mean that the Greenville, SC police need to be asked in what case one can have sex with a nine-year-old and not have it called rape, or it might mean that the arrest warrants included quotes from a deposition, in which the person being deposed used that phrase to describe what Ronca did.
    He also admitted that rapes had been going on once or twice a week for about two years.
    I’m gonna email MSNBC and tell them to get their thumb out and correct their copy of the story. While I’m at it, I think I’ll email WYFF and ask why they haven’t bothered to fix their damned headline, which still doesn’t go so far as to mention the word ‘rape’.

  3. (I’d add that, if it’s described as “having sex with the girl” in the arrest warrants, I can understand why it’d be reported that way; it is after all a direct quote. If that is the case, though, they should’ve put quote marks around it before they published it the first time. It certainly doesn’t look like an honest error in an article that’s chock-full of dodges and evasions because the reporter apparently did not want to use the word ‘rape’, or the editor didn’t want to print it.)

  4. Mail to WYFF, sent via their website. I’m posting this here in case anyone cares to take exception or offer advice on how to phrase stuff like this; I do a pretty decent businessese (US dialect), but I’m not well practiced at using it for less wholly businesslike purposes.
    From: Aaron
    To: WYFF4 Programming Dept. (via website)
    Date: Thu May 17 2007 12:50
    With regard to your story ‘Man Sentenced For Impregnating 10-Year-Old’, published online on April 24:
    I understand you’ve heard from some people already with regard to this story, and it appears that some changes have been made in response to those concerns. Please don’t think other than that I greatly appreciate that willingness to listen, understand, and act.
    I am curious about something, though. I see that the language used in the article has been modified to make it more clear that the crime of which Ronca was convicted was not ‘impregnation’, but rather the rape of a child — the exact charge is ‘criminal sexual conduct with a minor’, but the meaning behind it is quite clear, and quite rightly made more so by the content of your article.
    But I also notice that the article’s headline has not been changed, and still reads ‘impregnation’. In addition to the above-described factual inaccuracy represented by this choice of word, I’d submit that it is problematic for the same reason as was the original content of the article: what Ronca did was rape, and ought to be called exactly that, especially now that he’s been convicted and has begun a quarter-century-long prison sentence.
    “Rape” is an ugly word, I don’t argue otherwise. It can’t help but be; it names an ugly thing. And I can understand that it’s not a pleasant word to use in a headline or a newscast. It’s not the sort of thing anyone wants to hear on the six o’clock news. But that is what happened, and that is what Ronca was convicted of doing. To dance around the ugliness of what Ronca did serves no one, least of all the readers and viewers who depend on your station to provide honest, forthright, and comprehensive reporting.
    If there is a technical reason why the article’s headline cannot be changed on the website, I can understand that; I’m a developer myself. In that case, though, I would ask that a note be placed at the top of the article, to the effect that the article’s headline cannot be changed on the website due to technical limitations, but should read ‘Man Sentenced For…’
    I greatly appreciate your time and attention to this matter, and I’d like to say again that I am greatly pleased by your station’s rare willingness to respond to the concerns of those who make use of your online news service. Thank you very kindly, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon!
    — Aaron M., Baltimore, MD

  5. One more before I stop filling up your comments with randomness: apparently I was wrong in thinking the MSNBC story and the affiliate’s story were one and the same; MSNBC has the ‘Man Pleads Guilty…’ story, the affiliate’s updated version is of the ‘Man Convicted For…’.
    I can’t find MSNBC’s edition of the latter story; if I do, I’ll send them some mail.

  6. I’ve found
    Man Sentenced For Impregnating 10-Year-Old
    Abbeville man accused of impregnating 10-year-old stepdaughter
    Man gets 25 years for impregnating 9-year-old
    Man sentenced to 25 years after impregnating nine-year-old
    Just found this, too, which features the contorted sentence:
    He also admitted that rapes had been going on once or twice a week for about two years.
    Like the twinkly free-floating rapes dropped from the sky or something.


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