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For Decades, the Media Have Ignored the Rapes Behind a Famous Vietnam War Photo | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

For Decades, the Media Have Ignored the Rapes Behind a Famous Vietnam War Photo




Villagers during the sexual assault and massacre at My Lai, Vietnam.

Nearly everyone has seen that most famous atrocity photo from Vietnam—the naked girl with napalm on her skin running down a road in terror, toward a camera. The girl was even found years ago and interviewed numerous times. Not long ago I posted a piece about an amazing update on the photo at the terrific site that focuses on news photos, Michael Shaw’s Bag News.

Now they’ve just posted an in-depth and important piece, by Valerie Wieskamp, on another famous photo from the war—the one showing frightened villagers at My Lai just moments before getting gunned down by US troops.

What this piece reveals is the largely “missing” (in the media) story—that villagers were also raped or sexually brutalized just before the shootings.

One of the villagers, in fact, is the young woman in the right rear of this photo, who is shown buttoning up her blouse. The rapes were clearly documented at the time—by the photographer, a reporter and later by the official commission—but downplayed by the media back then, and now almost always ignored when today’s media revisit the tragedy. Why? Especially with the image of a young woman, dubbed “The Black Blouse Girl,” re-buttoning her shirt. Why would she be doing that at this moment?

Wieskamp writes:

While the My Lai Massacre is widely recognized as a military atrocity and an act of mass murder committed on civilians and non-combatants, true appreciation of the event as an act of mass rape and sexual abuse has never clearly materialized in the American consciousness, in spite of public data and testimony shortly after the massacre happened. Media presentation of the photograph of the Black Blouse Girl mirrors this amnesia.

There’s much more in the piece, so read it now.

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