Why have you never heard of Kavumu? Because media is broken.
Some insights from 20 years in journalism.
Journalism is too opaque and misunderstood. Chills gives a behind-the-scenes look at how dangerous investigative journalism gets made.
Right now, you can get 10 percent off your subscription if you sign up before May 20.
Over the years that I reported on the nearly 50 related child rapes in Kavumu, Democratic Republic of Congo, a single sentence fragment with an obvious conclusion kept intruding on my thoughts. Whether I was directly working on the story or suffering yet another night of insomnia, whether at home in New York or reporting from South Kivu Province, my brain kept repeating what started as a simple statement of anger, but grew into a constant, rageful roar: “If a single 3-year-old girl had been kidnapped and gang raped in Brooklyn…”
Yet for years, little girl after little girl was abducted and gang raped in Kavumu. Where was the international uproar? The media attention? The government response?
And I was far from alone in feeling this rage about the inequalities between the two places.
“In any other country in the world, a situation like the one that happened in Kavumu would have mobilized the state authorities and all the available means to investigate these crimes and deter further incidents,” Alejandro Sanchez, formerly the coordinator of MONUSCO’s sexual violence unit in South Kivu Province, told me in 2016. MONSUCO is the UN peacekeeping force in Congo.
Since I started retelling the story of what happened in Kavumu here on Chills, many people have written to me shocked, asking why they’d never heard about these horrors before. My honest reaction was that I really can’t explain that. I mean, I’ve been publishing stories about Kavumu in places like The Guardian and Foreign Policy magazine for years.
But, of course, there are reasons why you’ve never heard about this, and I’ve been thinking a lot about them.