Claudia Garcia Rojas, former coordinator and current volunteer with the Taskforce, has an op-ed in Policymic today. She shares some of the lessons she learned while researching our media toolkit titled Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists to Better Media Coverage.
During my time as Coordinator of the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women, I spent approximately a year researching rape and sexual violence reporting trends for the production of a media toolkit titled Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists to Better Media Coverage.
On a spreadsheet, I compiled what those of us who do advocacy work would deem “bad” stories in one column, and “good” stories in another.
Bad stories are those where the reporter employs victim-blaming statements (from the New York Times: “She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some say”), witness testimonies that are one-sided (from ABC 20/20: “She had her arm wrapped around me and one hand on my chest. It just felt like she was coming on to me”), and superfluous details that shame the victim (from the New York Times: “They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s”). A bad story lacks accuracy, fairness, and objectivity.
On the other hand, a good story is written from an objective or trauma-informed angle. It’s the kind of story where a reporter opts for accurate language instead of opting for provocative words. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams affirms this, writing “When the media uses the word ‘sex’ within a story about something where there are alleged victims of assault, it’s a semantic failure on an epic scale. It diminishes crime. It sensationalizes it. It removes the distinction between a normal, consensual act and violence. Sure, you could say that sex is an element of those stories. But you’d be missing the part about force and pathology.”
Read the rest here.