APPARENTLY, SPECIAL thanks are due teen-age kidnap victims Jacqueline Marris and Tamara Brooks, whose courageous appearances on Today and the cover of People magazine have ushered the crime of rape into the sunshine where it belongs.
The two California girls were grabbed from their cars while parked with boyfriends on a scenic overlook and terrorized for 12 hours before their abductor was shot to death Bonnie 'n' Clyde style by the rescuing police.
Their nightmare continued when the morning news show bookers arrived, with their Spy vs. Spy tactics, to land the exclusive interview for their respective bosses.
Katie Couric won, apparently on human decency points, but the happy ending kidnapped girls have yet to sign the kind of movie deal the happy ending trapped coal miners got almost as soon as they'd washed their faces.
However, the girls did receive praise on the New York Times editorial page for helping to remove the stigma of rape, and it is hard to put a price tag on something like that.
To be sure, there were tough lessons here, as the overly sympathetic booker from NBC found when she was suspended for a week for buying one of the girls a new pair of pants on her company credit card.
Is it just me? Am I the only one who doesn't feel uplifted by this unfolding drama?
Instead, I feel like I need a shower. And not just because I am ashamed of my profession and the unseemly lengths we go to nail down a juicy exclusive.
I also feel slimed by my membership in a viewership/reader- ship that clearly has an appetite for the really up-close-and-personal interview: "How did you feel when you thought you would die?"
God bless the coal miners. I hope they rake in so much money that they never have to go underground again. And God bless the girls. Like coal miners, young girls don't always make it back alive from such ordeals.
But couldn't they just say "thank you" into the cameras, put an arm around a loved one and go gratefully home?
The victims of crime and disaster in this country are lawyered-up, signed-up, interviewed and commented upon before they shrug the police blanket from their shoulders. And if they have that little privacy, it means we all have that little privacy.
I do not need - none of us needs - to witness the unspeakable suffering or the sobbing relief of these poor people. The 24- hour, real-time delivery of such unedited pain inures us all, and the decency we may someday need to call upon will be caked in ice.
How can we watch a distraught mother clutching a favorite toy in front of a tangle of television cameras and answering the same question every day: "How are you holding up?"
The public's need to know? I don't believe we can bear to know what that woman is feeling.
How can we provide a ratings bump for the Today show, where Katie Couric, the mother of daughters, finishes in a dead heat with the mothers of Jacqueline and Tamara in the race to exploit their ordeal?
Congratulations, girls, for not recoiling in shame. You did not incite the sexual violence committed against you. You are to be commended for your courage, and you are blessed by your good luck.
But withdraw now and heal yourselves so the rest of us may repent of our despicable curiosity.