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The Media and Rape



The News Media's Coverage of Crime and Victimization (video) (February 2000)

http://www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/other.htm - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sZGN4-tmzU

"The news media provide a necessary and invaluable public service, but their work can often result in the painful revictimization of victims. This 26-minute video (NCJ 178239) explores how the news media tend to cover crime and victimization, what can be done to help victims effectively deal with sometimes insensitive coverage, and how victim service providers can work together with members of the media to promote timely, sensitive media coverage."


"In its rush to be the first with the news, the media can often inflict a "second victimization" upon crime victims or survivors. Common complaints that victims have include: interviewing survivors at inappropriate times; filming and photographing gruesome scenes; searching for the "dirt" about the victim; seeking interviews with friends or neighbors', interviewing or photographing child victims; printing victims' names, addresses or places of employment; and scrutinizing victims' past. After a crime, victims are frequently physically and mentally numb. They are confused and disoriented.

A recent study shows that television news directors agree in principle that crime victims have privacy rights and the individual's right to privacy is not outweighed by the public's desire to know. However, directors are less likely to adhere to this principle if they know a competitor is going to break the story.

While victims have rights when dealing with the media, many yield to media pressures and answer questions that they would not consider answering under other circumstances. In most cases, there are no legal remedies if his or her rights are violated.

The National Victim Center developed this list of rights for victims:

To say "no" to an interview
To select the spokesperson or advocate of the victim's choice
To select the time and location for media interviews
To request a specific reporter
To refuse an interview with a specific reporter even though he or she
has granted interviews to other reporters
To say "no" to an interview even though the victim has previously
granted interviews
To release a written statement through a spokesperson in lieu of an
To exclude children from interviews
To refrain from answering any questions with which the victim is
uncomfortable or that the victim feels are inappropriate
To avoid a press conference atmosphere and speak to only one reporter
at a time
To demand a correction when inaccurate information is reported
To ask that offensive photographs or visuals be omitted from airing or
To conduct a television interview using a silhouette or a newspaper
interview without having a photograph taken
To completely give the victim's side of the story related to the
To refrain from answering reporters' questions during a trial
To file a formal complaint against a reporter
To grieve in private"
Quote from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/, Crime Victims and the Media*


Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Journalists


"The goal of this handbook is for reporters to see a murder or other crime involving intimate partners through the lens of domestic violence...Reporters can make a difference in the lives of victims by lifting the veil of silence that allows domestic violence to go unchecked to the point of murder."


Media Activist Tool Kit: Challenging Myths & Stereotypes in the News


"Media have tremendous power in setting cultural guidelines and in shaping political discourse. It is essential that news media—along with other institutions—are challenged to be fair and accurate."


Covering Violence A Guide to Ethical Reporting About Victims & Trauma second edition by Roger Simpson and William Coté more

"Covering Violence is an invaluable resource for use in newsrooms and in journalism classes throughout the country. The real-life examples and eyewitness accounts from media professionals greatly strengthen this second edition. The practical 'how to' approach on such issues as crossing cultural borders and doing sensitive interviews continues to be the backbone of this pioneering work."


Resources for the media:

RAINN is the main source of research on sexual assault. There are some services that do fee based research on request. One of these is CAVNET. Some libraries will also do fee based research. Other organizations such as The FEAR Project and educational speakers will give presentations on sexual assault issues.


Simpson, Roger (2006). Covering violence : a guide to ethical reporting about victims and trauma / Roger Simpson and William Cote´, New York : Columbia University Press.

PN4784.D57 C68 2006

Cuklanz, Lisa M. (1995). Rape on trial : how the mass media construct legal reform and social change, Philadelphia, Pa. : University of Pennsylvania Press.

P 96 .R35 C85 1995

Journal articles

Horvath, M. (2004). Sex Crime and the Media. Psychology, Crime & Law, 10 (4) pp. 465-466.

Clark, C. S. (1995, November 17). Sex, violence and the media. CQ Researcher, 5, 1017-1040. Retrieved February 1, 2007, from CQ Researcher Online, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995111700.


Date rape backlash [videorecording] : the media and the denial of rape

Made in 1994 by The Media Education Foundation & FAIR.

Video HV6561 .D37 1994



These resources have good narrative statements on statistics:

Statistics from RAINN


Guide to Statistics from AARDVARC


Sexual Violence statistics from National Center for Injury Prevention and Control


The extent, nature and consequences of sexual victimization


More statistics found here.


Quotes from authoritative resources

"In real life, however, rape victims are brutalized, ignored, harassed by the system that is designed to help them. They are traumatized stigmatized or shamed for life if they are not killed during the attack." p. 262

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.


"Psychological trauma and humiliation overwhelm many victims... trying, alone, to regain their sense of personal integrity that was destroyed by the intrusion of rape." p. 211

DiCanio, Margaret. (1993). The encyclopedia of violence : origins, attitudes, consequences. New York : Facts on File


"Both sexist stereotypes and common law conspired to make rape a criminal proceeding on which the victim and her behavior were tried rather than the defendant." p. 465, Rape / Sexual Assault

Howard, Angela & Kavenik Francis. (2000). Handbook of American Women's History. CA: Sage Publications Inc.


"Prior history of sexual violence. Women who are raped before the age of 18 are twice as likely to be raped as adults, compared to those without a history of sexual abuse (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000)" Center for Disease Control


"The 1970s marked the beginning of the rape reform movement, an era in which feminists partnered with law enforcement to secure the passage of numerous federal and state laws that broadened the definition of rape and altered rape trial procedures."

Sable, M. & Danis, F. (2006). Barriers to reporting sexual assault for women and men: perspectives of college students. Journal of American College Health, 55 (3): 157.


"Rape is one of the nation's most under reported crimes...The actual number committed may be 2 or more times the number reported."

"Many victims do not report the crime to police because of shame or fear. Some victims dread the possible humiliation of media publicity or being asked embarrassing questions by police."

"Only about 2 percent of all rapists are convicted and imprisoned and, on average, convicted rapists serve only one half of their original sentence... the low conviction rate is due to the difficulty of proving rape under most state laws."

Macdonalds, J. (2007). Rape. In The World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.


"Research suggests that two of three individuals who are sexually victimized will be revictimized. The occurrence of child- hood sexual abuse and its severity are the best documented and researched predictors of sexual revictimization. Multiple traumas, especially childhood physical abuse, and recency of sexual victimization are also associated with higher risk."

Classen, Catherine C.; Palesh, Oxana Gronskaya; Aggarwal, Rashi (2005). SEXUAL REVICTIMIZATION: A Review of the Empirical Literature. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, Apr2005, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p103-129, 27p link


"It's as if a deep wound, long buried, has been laid open."

Kalven, J. (1999). Working with available light : a family's world after violence. New York : W. W. Norton.





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