Sticks and stones…

Written by Workhorse Marketing

by Jenny Martin, Communications and Media Relations

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

I doubt many people will argue that they are unaffected by the media. So when articles like the one below are written, its purpose is not to nag and nitpick; it’s to let people know, media included, that the words they choose to use when talking about rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse do matter. Since the goal is to end all this violence, we know that SafePlace cannot operate alone. We cannot always be the experts – we have to educate others to be experts in their own lives. For instance, when I need advice I turn to the people closest to me. How those trusted people react affects what I decide to do next. The same is true for survivors.

Stop calling it a sex scandal

Dear media: Learn the difference between abuse and sex — otherwise, you’re sensationalizing violence and rape

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Let me fix this for you, headline writers. When you’re dealing with a story that involves rape or harassment or abuse or molestation or child porn or anything that falls under the rubric of criminal behavior, you should call those things rape and harassment and abuse and molestation and child pornography. You know what you shouldn’t call them? Sexy sexy sex scandals, that’s what.

For example, when you’re covering a story involving charges of “rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault” at the Lackland Air Force Base, you might want to reconsider framing it, as the Washington Post does, as a “widening sex scandal,” or as the Boston Herald calls it, a “growing sex scandal,” or even, as the Christian Science Monitor says, a garden-variety “sex scandal.” If you happen to say, as the AP does, that the “Air Force says 31 victims so far in sex scandal,” or as already credibility-strained CNN declares, that there are now “31 victims identified in widening Air Force sex scandal,” please note that word “victims” there. It’s the important one.

Similarly, if you’re ABC and you want to talk about priests who’ve abused children, don’t couch it as a “guide to Catholic sex scandals.” If you’re the L.A. Times or the Hollywood Reporter, don’t say that Jerry Sandusky made for a “Penn State sex scandal.” If you’re the Village Voice, don’t say that  the molestation that allegedly went on for years at a New York private school is a “Horace Mann Sex Scandal.” Just don’t.

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