Why Wasn’t the Manchester Mass Rapist a Bigger Talking Point? | Simone Hanna

 Earlier this year when reporting restrictions were lifted and the media were finally allowed to release the details of Manchester mass-rapist Reynhard Sinaga, I was convinced that this would be the start of a more than necessary talking point and a long lasting story within the mainstream media.

This was not the case.

Even before the ever prominent Covid-19 dominated the news, it seemed that this one failed to. Though his first trail took place in 2018, reporting restrictions meant that it was only in January of this year that Manchester University student Reynhard Sinaga had been unmasked as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history”. Believed to have sexually assaulted at least 195 victims since 2005, Sinaga abused mostly heterosexual men as a ‘sport’ for years, often luring vulnerable students from nightclubs and pubs; using GHA (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) to ‘date rape’ victims, filming their suffering for his own sick pleasure.

There were many factors of the Sinaga case which should have been the beginning of many important talking points, yet this story barely seemed to last a week. Our mainstream media can spend weeks overegging a single useless story, yet the vile case of a man who raped nearly 200 men manages to be swept away like dust.

Sinaga’s access to GHA and his continuous abuse is a tale in itself. In January, Home Secretary Priti Patel promised “urgent review” on the use of illegal date rape drugs, but there have been little updates on the matter since this statement was made. I’d like to be more understanding of this being left in the dark due to the overpowering stories of coronavirus, but our need for stricter laws does not go away in a health crisis; this is an important topic and it would be an injustice to victims to put aside crimes in need of urgent appeal. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many issues that should have been spoken about further.

When cases like Sinaga’s are so easily left understated in mainstream news, I wonder whether our society’s view on male assault also comes into play. Although scientific evidence shows that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted, male sexual abuse is often overlooked and disregarded; males are less likely to come forward due to stigma and embarrassment, and there are far fewer places for men to find shelter and comfort, especially with much of western society having a more flawed and shallow perception of male sexual abuse. With this taken into consideration, I do wonder whether Sinaga’s crimes would have been covered more heavily and scrutinised further had the gender of his victims been female.

Moreover, I am reminded of ‘Black Cap Rapist’ John Worboys; an incredibly high-profile criminal case of similar gruesome acts, one that occurred only a few years before Sinaga’s. It gained plenty of media coverage and is a case often recognised by many members of the British public. Worboys was convicted of attacks in 2009 on 12 women, but police say he may have had over 100 victims. Even with this well distinguished case in mind, the topic of gender imbalance does not strike me as the main factor. Stephen Port, known more commonly as the ‘Grindr Killer’ had all male victims, much like Sinaga, yet even this crime with far fewer victims seems more recognised to the general public.

With this taken into consideration I am left to ponder whether a larger topic would have impacted the amount of coverage this story gained. So, unlike many, I will not waste this piece skimming over racial issues that our media seem eager to tiptoe around.

I would firstly like to clarify that this is not to say Sinaga’s Indonesian heritage would have directly contributed to the crimes he committed, not in the slightest, but I am not going to dismiss the tense topic of race; in fact, I would like to emphasise that the fact I feel more at liberty to speak about this issue being mixed race further proves to me that this a topic in need of urgent discussion and is not something we can continue to avoid.

It is not unreasonable, wild, or ‘racist’ to think this way. It was only a few years ago that the Rotherham police chief admitted to ignoring the sex abuse of children by Pakistani grooming gangs from fears it would spark ‘racial tensions’ – but if the fear of reporting news when huge stories are taking place is a factor, it leads you to wonder how many other cases are swept under the rug in order to avoid backlash.

It is no secret media and law enforcement have a fear of sparking controversial racial topics, even if that means ignoring stories that deserve to be highlighted rather than shadowed.

Last year, analysis concluded that 33 of England’s 39 police forces have either investigated, or are investigating, a grooming gang, yet our mainstream news are scared to touch it. For weeks they will pile on Dominic Cummings’ whereabouts, Russian conspiracies or ‘Take That lockdown concerts’ – all while serious crimes are underreported.

A recent example is the case of 19-year-old Ellie Williams. Despite growing protests and furious online reaction, Ellie Williams’ heart wrenching story lies untouched by mainstream news. Currently detained in police custody and having to face a court that claimed she made false claims, this case has barely been touched outside of social media and her local paper. In a lengthy post, the teenager claimed to have been groomed and beaten by three Asian men, sharing incredibly disturbing, graphic images of her injuries. This deserves to be a breaking story, but will the BBC, Sky, Channel 4, or ITV cover it? It is unlikely.

Much like the Rotherham police scandal, Ellie Williams’ story lies with many victim stories of abuse that remain denigrated.

So, when I sit and reflect about why Sinaga’s shockingly vile crimes were not piled on as much as John Worboys, Stephen Port, or a government adviser’s whereabouts, a large part of me speculates whether this is another sad attempt to savour a safe media reputation, for none of us can ever know for sure just how many injustices are overlooked, or fail to be reported.

Reynhard Sinaga’s case was reported, but not nearly to the extent it should have been. It is essential we know about the issues affecting our nation, and with the story of the most prolific rapist in British history being swept away so quickly, it is not unwise to wonder how many tales get tucked away.

Photo by Prince Oghenovo on Flickr.

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