Noteworthy

Reporter and photojournalist discuss the difficulties of covering rape as a weapon of war

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario. (John Moore/Getty Images)

How do you ask a woman about being raped? The topic is far beyond being simply a touchy subject. It’s a problem both a reporter and a photojournalist found themselves confronted with as they endeavored to tell the stories of women who were victims of rapes perpetrated as acts of war by militants. “If asking a woman how she was raped is difficult, it is even worse taking down her story,” writes Aryn Baker in a gripping piece for TIME. Baker is the magazine’s Africa bureau chief and she partnered with renowned photojournalist Lynsey Addario, who will be appearing at our Women in the World Summit in New York City next month, to tell the stories of rape victims from Sudan and and Congo. Despite speaking with and photographing scores of women who’d been raped, they note, the job never seemed to get easier — even for Addario who has spent a decade of her life doing this type of work.

One of the heart-wrenching stories they focus on is that of a young woman named Ayak, who appears on the cover of the magazine’s latest issue. The cover depicts a black-and-white portrait of Ayak standing with her right side angle toward the camera and wearing only a pair of underpants. Her hands are cupping her naked breasts and, at nine months pregnant, her belly is fully expanded. The photo was taken in December. Ayak became pregnant after being raped repeatedly. When rebels attacked her village near Bentiu, in South Sudan, her entire family was killed. As she tried to flee, alone, she was raped. When she finally made her way to a U.N. refugee camp, she was continuously raped there. One of her rapists gave her HIV. She told Baker and Addario that her child would likely be the only family she’ll ever have. “Despite the sexual assault that led to her pregnancy, and the horrors she had experienced in South Sudan,” Addario says in the piece, “she was excited about the imminent birth of her child.” Addario goes on to explain the sensitive nature of working with a rape victim for a story like this, and pulls the curtain back on how she approached Ayak, and how Ayak responded to appearing nearly naked in the photos.

Read the full discussion at TIME.

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