Rape in the news : contemporary challenges

Boyle, Karen and Jessie, Brenna and Strickland, Megan; Horvath, Miranda and Brown, Jennifer, eds. (2022) Rape in the news : contemporary challenges. In: Rape Challenging Contemporary Thinking - 10 Years On. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 113-127. ISBN 9781000623628 (https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003163800-11)

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The media have an important role to play in constructing, maintaining or challenging a rape-supportive culture. In this chapter, we discuss news reporting of rape and sexual assault in Scotland, drawing on a variety of research and advocacy projects we have been involved in, as workers in Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) and as academic researchers. This includes studies of media representation, work with media organisations in relation to trial reporting, and a focus group exploring survivors’ thoughts about news media. We identify two key challenges for contemporary news reporting: the difficulty of translating a feminist analysis into incident-driven, justice-oriented news; and of constructing and understanding experience and expertise. We argue that the news media’s emphasis on criminal trials produces a limited understanding of the continuum of sexual violence, and limits the range and nature of stories which can be told. We consider the contexts in which survivors – and those who work with them – could be used as experts rather than to report specifically on personal experience.