The Issue with the Media’s Definition of Victimization

The Issue with the Media’s Definition of Victimization

“The issue in light of debunked media accounts about campus rape is not whether to talk about rape, but how to talk about it in a more responsible way.”

– Anne Franks, University of Miami Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

Victimization in the eyes of the media includes a slew of stereotypes, an inaccurate portrayal of accounts and a lack of police investigated facts.

There is this horrible idea that being a victim has a certain number of qualifications and that society dictates whether a person is a true victim or just blowing things out of proportion.

False reports are often the baseline for who should and should not be considered a victim.

Although less than 10 percent of reports are false, it’s the representation of sexual assault and the definitions the media imposes on acts, words and behaviors exhibited by predators that ultimately harm the impact and importance of how damaging sexual assault is.

This may be a shock to some but if you searched ‘Sexual Assault’ in the search box, you find the top news stories that pop up are using phrases like ‘no one reported’, ‘no evidence’, ‘Rape accusation’, ‘Rape was a hoax’, and ‘Suspect’.

There are plenty of other stories that pop up as well speaking more to admissions of guilt. I found this particularly interesting as I scrolled through the headliners because the majority of the articles begin by recounting the accusation and then following it up with a lack of evidence to prosecute.

So, I see this disconcerting depiction of reporting sexual assault, combined with slut shaming, general American acceptance of Rape Culture and a very pressing ‘keep quiet’ culture and I can’t really tell if the producers are trying to help or hinder with shows like Thirteen Reasons Why or movies like I Spit on Your Grave. Is feeling the revenge of a ‘victim’ truly making people understand the emotions someone feels.

Are these shows depicting ‘the perfect victim’ where if you experience anything less, then you needn’t bother others with ‘complaints’.

Is victim the right definition for all people experiencing assault? And Who decides the measure of what someone feels or how being assaulted should affect them?

Are we addressing sexual assault and rape culture properly, with respect but also determination to see things change?

By Tanya Burgess