Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: Bringing the Sexual Violence Conversation Home

Courtesy of Studio 9 Films Fiona Lloyd-Davies.


“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.”

That was the scrawled message on the T-shirt worn by a young woman at Philadelphia’s Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, the site last Friday for an all-school Social Justice Day, organized in partnership with the Pulitzer Center and filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies.

The subject was sexual violence. Among the activities: a screening and discussion of Fiona’s film "Seeds of Hope," the searing documentary on victims of rape in the eastern Congo that also includes the damning indifference of a Congolese soldier who says, on camera, that “When we rape we feel free.”

A different culture? Someplace “other,” far removed from Philadelphia or America? Not exactly—not with a torrent of stories alleging sexual assaults by Bill Cosby and a shocking account in Rolling Stone detailing an alleged gang rape in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. And not so far removed from Benjamin Rush, either, where students on Friday shared heart-breaking accounts of assaults they themselves had experienced.

What’s important, as one student put it, is that “people become more aware of the rape culture in which we live. We have an advantage here—we have Social Justice Days and talk about things that are wrong in society. I feel like more people should be able to have that experience because maybe eventually something will start to change.”


Through activities like Social Justice Day, the Pulitzer Center seeks to extend the reach of its journalism. Other examples this past week included a three-day in-depth exploration by several Chicago suburban schools of Everyday Africa, led by Pulitzer Center grantee Peter DiCampo and Pulitzer Center Education Director Mark Schulte, and a discussion at National Geographic of violence in the Central African Republic that featured the work of photographer Marcus Bleasdale and writer Peter Gwin.

The Worcester Art Museum opened the second in its continuing series of photography exhibits, designed in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center and with the intent of showing the human costs of war. The new exhibit, running through next May, focuses on child soldiers and features the work of Pulitzer grantees Marcus Bleasdale, Robin Hammond, and Andre Lambertson. We hope you’ll visit Worcester to see the work in person.


We’re grateful to Zainab Bangura, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, for co-hosting our presentation of "Seeds of Hope" last Thursday at the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium. In her introduction Bangura noted that the screening came at an opportune time, given that this Tuesday is the International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“This film is a stark reminder of why we must make wartime rape a thing of the past,” she said. “[W]e must counter the ruthlessness of rapists with the rule of law to punish them for their crimes, and we must support survivors in their journey toward healing and rebuilding their lives.”

Until next week,

Jon Sawyer
Executive Director