Reporting on a Problem for All Women

An unsettlingly long list of celebrities and powerful men accused of sexual assault, misconduct and rape has grown over the past few weeks. Just over the short course of writing this article, at least five more leading Hollywood men have seen accusations come out against them.

Both news consumers and news outlets themselves should be faulted for how Americans deal with sexual misconduct in the public forum. Unfortunately, we only seem to focus on such a contentious topic when people in positions of power and entertainment are involved.

The media should stop treating these stories as elitist matters, but instead should treat them as a societal issue that has plagued both the entertainment industry and the general public for too long.

When reporters only focus on sexual assault cases that involve powerful men, it violates the integrity of the victims by turning their stories into another piece of entertainment gossip.

The fact of the matter is that sexual assault, abuse and rape has been a rising epidemic in our country, and it is only now getting attention because of the big names behind the allegations.  

Southern Methodist University student Karen Guan astutely calls out both the entertainment business and larger audience enthralled in the abuse stories against them in an article, If You Just Started Paying Attention To Sexual Harassment, You’re Late. In it, she writes about how focusing on the abuse stories by prominent men in Hollywood is not doing anything to change the wider public view of harassment.

Since 1998, over 17,700,000 women have been the victim of rape, with an estimated 321,500 victims each year. It isn’t that the media is dismissing these cases, they are refusing to acknowledge them altogether.

On college campuses, 1 in 5 women reportedly are sexually assaulted, yet these stories are rarely ever told. There only are two types of cases regarding assault on college campuses: episodic and thematic.

Episodic focuses on a single story, and, similar to that of an elite Hollywood assault story, often involve powerful faculty or the athletic department because it “has an element of scandal or celebrity”. Thematic stories on often go untold as they deal with statistics and the rape problem in general, which political scientist Lene Aaroe claims is ‘boring’ for the audience.

While the topic of sexual assault and rape has received a rise in attention in recent weeks and months, much more needs to be done in regards to how the media addresses the issue. Covering such stories is difficult due to privacy reasons, but not all the coverage has to be on the accused and the assailants.

The focus should instead be on the victims of the assaults, or at the very least, shifting the stigma away from rape victims.

This is not an issue only found the entertainment industry and amongst the elite. It is something that affects 1 in 6 women in a lifetime, and must be addressed by the media accordingly. There is already media focus on the subject, which is why now is the opportune time to take coverage a step further by addressing those affected by sexual assault on a deeper and more meaningful level.

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