Rethinking Rape Coverage

By McBride, Kelly | The Quill, October/November 2002 | Go to article overview

Rethinking Rape Coverage


McBride, Kelly, The Quill


Should anonymity be absolute?

Thursday evening, Aug. 1, news editors across the country faced the same question: Name the girls or don't name the girls?

The girls were two teenagers from Lancaster, Calif. They had been abducted earlier that day. One was 16, one was 17. Both had been parked with their boyfriends at a remote "lovers lane" when they were stolen away by a man with a gun.

The girls' pictures and their plight were the drama of the day on television. Americans held vigil with the families - worrying, waiting, wondering how these girls would survive, if they could survive. The story was scripted for TV, particularly for the 24-hour news channels.

The ordeal erupted in the middle of the night on the West Coast, just in time for the morning news programs in New York. It climaxed at midday with a shoot-out. By the time the evening news rolled around, there were enough details to craft a dramatic story with a satisfying resolution. The girls were alive. The bad guy was dead. The new system, the Amber Alert, had worked.

Then someone said rape.

Specifically, Kern County (Calif.) Sheriff Carl Sparks said the kidnapper had raped both girls. He said it on CNN's Larry King Live. Many reporters covering the case had already heard the girls had been raped and were back in their newsrooms grappling to define their options.

Now the choices were down to two: Name them as they had been doing all day long on television and on Internet Web sites, or stop naming them.

When the papers hit the doorsteps Friday morning, there was not a clear consensus.

Among those who withdrew the girls' identities: The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Washington Post. Papers that named the girls and reported the rapes: The Boston Globe and Newsday.

In the days of national introspection that followed, it was dear that many journalists writing about media policies on rape victims didn't know the history of this issue. "Why don't we name rape victims?" one reporter asked me. She was not just looking for a good quote. She really wanted to know. Withholding the names of rape victims was a well-established policy she had inherited with her local stylebook. She had a vague understanding of the reasoning behind the policy. She also had a lot of questions that she had never asked anyone in her newsroom.

Fourteen years ago, a New York Times reporter asked Geneva Overholser, then editor of The Des Moines Register, that same question: Why don't we name rape victims? Her answer set into motion a string of events that changed the media and society's understanding of the crime. It was time then to talk about rape. It is time again.

The editors at work Aug. 1 knew instinctively their choices were artificial and sensed that their tools for making this decision were outdated. The policies of not naming rape victims were written before the Internet, before the 24-hour news channels, before what we call "convergence."

Much has changed in the news business since those policies were drafted in the late 1970s. Much has changed in society's attitude about rape. We talk about sex more openly, in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Think Bob Dole and Viagra. Think radio shock jocks Opie and Andrew sponsoring their sex stunt in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The generation coming of age today has been reared on reality and talk television. No moment is too private, no event too personal.

Indeed, surveys show rape survivors under 30 have a markedly different response to the crime, says Lucy Berliner, director of the Sexual Assault Center at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. Women under 30 are much more likely to tell people about an assault, report the crime, get counseling and seek medical treatment, Berliner discovered in a comprehensive study she published last year. All of those actions are considered helpful in dealing with the aftermath of rape. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rethinking Rape Coverage
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.