How do you report on Ahmed Abdoule, 33, who this week was convicted of rape at Hull Crown Court, handed an 11 year prison term? The Hull Daily Mail’s headline sums up: “Man who raped teenage girl held sharp piece of wood to her throat and said: ‘You cannot be a virgin because you are white’.”
The rapist is a man first and foremost. In the story’s fifth paragraph we learn more about this violent criminal: “The court heard Abdoule, a Somalian national, was known to the woman and took her to his home.”
We read Judge Mark Bury’s comments: “She told you she was a virgin to try and get you to stop. You said to her, ‘You cannot be, you are white’. You told her not to look at you, and pulled her top over her face, telling her you did not want to see her while you were raping her.”
And then the story went national, appearing on the websites of two newspapers: the Sun and the Mail.
The Mail’s chief fact is the rapist’s nationality. The article begins:
A Somalian man has been jailed after he held a sharp piece of wood against a teenage girl’s throat and raping her, saying that the victim could not be a virgin ‘because you are white’.
Words matter. Facts are dressed for readers to digest. The story calls Abdoule a “savage rapist”. A spot of tautology, no? Can the rapist be, for instance, ‘kindly’, ‘gentle’ or ‘civilised’? He is a “sickening pervert”, again, rather than what other kind of criminal pervert, an ‘uplifting’ or ‘wholesome’ one?
We do hear more of the crime, and these parts, too, was reported by the Hull Mail:
After he had finished raping her, he told his victim that he had ‘liked it’ and that she was ‘not the only girl who was going to get punished’. Abdoule, from east Hull, also told her that ‘my country would love you’.
After he dropped the teenager away from his home, Abdoule gave the victim a new top to wear and told her to ‘cherish it’ and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about his attack.
Over in the Sun, we’re told:
SICKO CAGED – Rapist told teen victim she couldn’t be a virgin ‘because she’s white’ as he held weapon to her throat in sex attack. Somalian national Ahmed Abdoule also threatened to kill his victim if she told anyone about the attack
The story begins by calling Abdoule a “rapist”. He is then called an ‘evil rapist’. And then these comments appear beneath the story:
The ‘man” is taken to represent his ‘kind’. We do not know why Abdoule was in the UK, whether he was on holiday, working, seeking asylum, living with British relatives and so on.
The Mail’s comments – and these the most popular ones approved by the site:
How quickly the rapist who carried out a specific crime on an individual comes to epitomise something innate in the Other and a greater threat to us all. That’s not to say race played no part in this – the attacker expressly referred his vicim’s whiteness. That’s a fact. But in reducing the crime to one of culture or ignoring the abuser’s ethnicity – why does the story appear in the Sun and Mail?; why doesn’t the story appear in the Indy and Guardian? – the facts and a myriad other factors that contributed to the crime are wilfully distorted or overlooked.