New Resource: Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists

24 Oct

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                  October 24, 2012


Contact: Claudia Garcia –Rojas:

CHICAGO:  The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women publishes a Media Toolkit to disseminate to members of the press. Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists To Better Media Coverage addresses common issues stemming from how media currently structures news around rape and sexual violence, and how journalists can better report on these issues. The Toolkit provides concrete facts about the problem of violence against girls and young women; suggestions about issues to be covered regarding violence against girls, including the Taskforce’s recommendations of use of language, ways to end violence, and information about key organizations. This Toolkit is not only necessary for helping address the ever-deepening stigma around rape and sexual violence, but a critical and timely resource to address the pervasiveness of rape culture in society. Mariame Kaba, Co-Founder of The Chicago Taskforce states, “Media portrayals about sexual and domestic violence in the lives of young women contribute to raising public consciousness about these serious and important issues.  It is important that these portrayals be accurate and well-informed.  We believe that this toolkit will help to inform those who are responsible for telling these stories.”

Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates adds that,  “One of the results of recent attention in the media on sexual violence is a greater opportunity to have a public dialogue and replace often victim-blaming myths with education.  However, if the reporting itself is inadvertently based on those myths, not only is the opportunity lost, but the victim-blaming continues unchecked and the public remains uninformed.

Through our work at Rape Victim Advocates, we see how language is crucial in creating and sometimes reinforcing decades-old cultural beliefs about sexual violence.  This Toolkit provides timely, easy to use guidelines that allow journalists to honor their ethical obligation to be unbiased and write with accurate language about sexual violence, whether they are a crime beat reporter or an investigative journalist.”

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women was founded to develop a comprehensive, citywide approach to ending violence against girls. Established in fall 2009, the Taskforce unites stakeholders from across Chicago to address the question: What conditions need to exist locally and statewide to end violence against girls and young women?

The Taskforce has become a central space to bring together practitioners and policy advocates with the goal of developing a comprehensive strategy to end violence against girls and young women.   The Taskforce has released papers and data analyses to develop the field and draw attention to the issue, brought together hundreds of organizational representatives in discussions, raised the issue with public officials such as the Cook County Women’s Commission, and begun to build a stronger infrastructure for supporting girls’ safety in Chicago. Additional data analyses and reports can be found at

1 Comment

Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Media, Resources, Violence


One response to “New Resource: Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists

  1. Andrea S.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    It’s great that this publication exists as a resource.

    Some quick thoughts that came to mind as I glanced through the publication (have not yet read closely): I think in the section where you talk about removing identifying details, I think it can be worthwhile to emphasize that, if you have indicated that the person resides in a relatively small community (and if the name of the town is provided), then reporters may need to be extra careful about obscuring any other identifying details. Reporters should also exercise similar caution if the person is identified as being the member of a small, closely knit community in which most members know each other well (“Manhattan New York” is a very large anonymous pool of people, but “the culturally Deaf signing community of Manhattan New York” or “community of recent immigrants from Puerto Rico in Manhattan” is much smaller. And people within these communities DO know each other well, so they won’t need much detail to figure out who you’re talking about.) I raise this issue because I commonly see reporters fail to account for the EXTRA CAUTION that they MUST TAKE if they need to identify someone as a member of a small community (whether a geographically defined community, or a cultural/ethnic/linguistic community) but still need to keep them anonymous. It may be that some reporters are already sensitized to this, but some are NOT.

    Similarly, identifying a person’s disability (particularly if it is a low incidence disability OR is low-incidence among people of certain demographics) can also in some contexts be an identifying detail. (Another issue that, for some reason, some reporters fail to account for until/unless prompted.) If you are talking about people in a nursing home of 300 residents all over age 65, then the word “deaf” or “hard of hearing” probably describes dozens of them. But if you’re talking about students at a high school of the same size, there could well be only one deaf student in the entire school, because deafness is not as common among teens as it is among older people. If the disability needs to be mentioned and the person still needs to be anonymous, then the reporter should take extra care to obscure other details … for example, instead of naming their town or school, perhaps say they are from “the northwestern part of State X”.

    You have a little discussion about rape about GLBTQI populations, which is great. But it is not mentioned anywhere that people with disabilities (including women with disabilities, and children with disabilities) are at much higher risk of sexual violence than people without disabilities. I would encourage you to add a paragraph on this issue, with relevant stats.

    Thanks for your consideration.


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