The Media's Responsibility in Rape Culture

It may seem crazy to you, but did you know that men report on sexual assault/ rape stories more than women? And it’s not because they care more, but because the news industry wants to hear the report from them rather than from women. Based on articles from the top 12 news outlets nationwide, men wrote 55%, over half of sexual assault/rape stories while women wrote only 31%. The other 14% of articles had no bylines. The Women’s Media Center 2017 Gender Gap report also shows that in general, 62% of article bylines are men and 38% are women.​

Media is the most powerful influence in society. With great power comes great responsibility, and we need to hold the news industry accountable for their lack of diversity. Male-dominated media influences what we know about the world and how we view it. One of the things they help influence is rape culture in the United States.

Despite over 90% of rape/ sexual assault victims on college campuses being women, male reporters are still more likely to cover these cases. Undoubtedly, men are more likely to focus their stories on the impact on the alleged perpetrator rather than the victim. Because men tend to write more about the impact on the alleged perpetrator, and men write the majority of these stories, there is an obvious inequality in what is reported on these stories. Stories written by men sourced 54% men and only 28% women. Women who wrote these stories sourced 42% women and 38% men. Others sourced were organizations and undetermined gender.

In these reported stories, 48% of quotes are from men, while only 32% are from women. In stories about women raped by athletes, eight out of the 12 top news outlets had absolutely no women in the bylines. In said stories, male authors quoted 81% men and 7% women, while female authors quoted 49% women 41% men. The impact on alleged victims in sports stories referencing sexual assault received less than 2% of coverage.

Studies show that only 20% of female students who experience sexual assault report it to law enforcement, and that 95% of campus rapes go unreported. Victims are reluctant to come forward because of the doubt, backlash and shame that unfortunately comes along with it.

Photo courtesy of Google Commons

The trend of unfair reporting on these important topics just feeds into our unfortunate rape culture, normalizing sexual assault and often blaming the victim. When handling a rape case in 2014, Canadian judge Robin Camp asked the victim why she couldn’t keep her legs closed. A story was published by Slate telling women they should stop drinking to avoid sexual assault. Bill O’Reilly still has a career despite being accused of sexual assault by over five women.

Our president bragged about sexual assaulting women BEFORE he was elected.

The country and the world’s attitude towards sexual assault and rape must be corrected. The media needs to stop worrying about how the star athlete will recover after rape charges, and tell the story of the victim who has now turned suicidal. The change has to come now, and the change starts with us.