Lesbian Couple Rescued 40 Teens in Norway, Lack of Media Coverage Questioned

 @EllenKilloran
on August 02 2011 11:40 AM
Utoya memorial
People stand on a memorial on the shore of Tyrifjorden lake overlooking Utoya island August 1, 2011, where anti-Islam extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 68 people in a shooting rampage in July. Norwegians believe penalties for serious crimes in their country should be tightened in the wake of the shooting and a bomb attack that killed 77 people, an opinion poll showed on Monday Reuters

More than a week after the Norway massacre, a story of a heroic rescue is gaining traction in the international media -- and some are blaming the delay on the sexual orientation of the heroines.

Toril Hansen and Hege Dalen, a married lesbian couple, were dining on the opposite shore from the youth campsite on Utoya Island when Anders Breivik opened fire. The couple rushed to the aid of those trapped on the island -- putting themselves in grave danger to rescue 40 teens.

A Finnish newspaper was apparently the first major news outlet to report on the dramatic rescue, and the translated story then began to appear on English-language LGBT blogs and newspapers. The blog Talk About Equality published the following translation:

Hege Dalen and her spouse, Toril Hansen were near Utöyan having dinner on the opposite shore across from the ill-fated campsite, when they began to hear gunfire and screaming on the island.

"We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake," says Dalen to HS [Helsingin Sanomat] in an interview.

The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.

Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat.

Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.

They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.

"We did not sleep last night at all. Today, we have been together and talked about the events," Dalen said.

The Talk About Equality blog article, titled "If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?," points out that media "heavy hitters" have not yet picked up the story.

An editorial in The Telegraph considers whether the omission could have been intentional.

"It's not as though it's just traditionally minded, conservative news organisations, who might be expected to have misgivings about homosexual marriage, which have not reported on Mrs. Hansen and Mrs. Dalen's heroism," Tom Chivers writes.

"The Guardian and The Independent - and, indeed, the...New York Times -- are all proudly liberal papers, but none seem to have covered it.

"Of course, in the hours after the event, they would most likely have got their stories from newswires and local press, so it's conceivable that -- for whatever reason -- those sources had their own biases. Maybe a lesbian couple doesn't fit the mould of heroic rescuer that we in the media are used to, so the interview-hungry hacks at the scene gathered around burly, bearded Scandinavian men who more easily met their preconceptions.

"But I think it's more likely that it's just that, in the panicked days after the attacks, they just never happened to speak to a journalist."

Bår Stenvik, an Oslo-based author and journalist who had not heard about the rescue story until Tuesday, agrees the most likely explanation for the lack of coverage is that the lesbian couple simply had not spoken much to the press.

"One of the remarkable aspects of this incident has been that there are so many stories to be told, with so many victims and witnesses," he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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