The media is a powerful tool in shaping the minds of people and impacting them. There is a stereotype of gender when it comes to violence as portrayed by the media. In any case of violence, the women are usually under represented or worse, to be blamed for being the victim.
In 2013 at small town Ohio, two high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year old girl. The incident happened at a party with more than 50 people and the girl was very drunk she had no idea what had happened. However, she was publicly and sexually assaulted repeatedly, all acts were documented on social media. The girl woke up naked in the basement of one of the accusers’ house and only realized what had happened to her when she went on social media.
This case really angers me, not only as a feminist but as someone who believes in humanity, this is outrage. Men are stereotyped as dominant and successful. But would this stereotype then allow for them to be pardoned when committing a crime?
The town consists of about 18,000 people in population. In such a small community, football is king and the accusers were star players in a highly reputable team and have a huge fan base. The case led to a town divide. Public were accusing the victim for putting herself in that situation. The victim even received death threats for causing grief and “ruining the lives” of the accusers. When faced with a situation like this, some of the comments that are given to the victim were:
“She deserved to be raped”
“She wore short skirts and tight tops, she asked for it”
“She was lying”
“She was drunk”
How did Media play a part in stereotypes and gender biases?
While the accusers have been sentenced for their crimes, several articles have come out in support of the accusers rather than the victim. Here in lies the ethical issues present in the media.
CNN covered the story on television indicating that the accusers had a really bright future using terms like “promising students”, “bright future”, and “star football players”. CNN reporter, Poppy Harlow expressed her sadness and grieves at the verdict which is set to see the lives of young stars being ruined. Nothing was reported on the victim. The video was aimed at gaining sympathy for the accusers. (Carter, 2013)
ABC ran a very positive feature article on the accuser. They deemed the accuser’s emotional state as a “celebratory mood”. (Lombardi, 2013)
Ron Allen, a reporter with the NBC highlighted that the boys had promising football careers. The Associated Press and USA Today however, emphasized that the victim was drunk. The first sentence in the article about the summary of the case identifies the victim as a “drunken 16-year old girl”. (Welsh-Huggins, 2013)
Yahoo News put out a clear narrative suggesting that the victim has affected Steubenville, causing it to turn into an emotional state. Yahoo News also added that the town had to bear the pain from the fact that the accusers might be convicted of the charges. (Wetzel, 2013)
Research suggests that news coverage on violence and stereotypes has had an influence on public opinion (Palazzolo & Anthony 2011; Sotirovic 2003). The evidences above proved the biasness of gender, how there was no balance in reporting both sides of the story and how stereotypes will continue to exist if media does not help to take a stand.
Signing off for now!
Carter, C. (2013, March 18). Alleged victim in Steubenville rape case says she woke up naked. Retrieved from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/16/justice/ohio-steubenville-case/
Lombardi, M. (2013, March 12). The Steubenville Rape Case: The Story You Haven’t Heard. Retrieved from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/steubenville-rape-case-story-heard/story?id=18705357
Palazzolo, Kellie E. & Roberto, Anthony J. (2011). ‘Media Representations of Intimate Partner Violence and Punishment Preferences: Exploring the Role of Attributions and Emotions.’ Journal of Applied Communication Research 39(1): 1–18.
Welsh-Huggins, A. (2013, March 17). Verdicts in Steubenville high school rape trial. Retrieved from NBC NEWS: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/17/17346127-verdicts-in-steubenville-high-school-rape-trial
Wetzel, D. (2013, March 17). Steubenville High School football players found guilty of raping 16-year-old girl. Retrieved from Yahoo! Sports: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/highschool–steubenville-high-school-football-players-found-guilty-of-raping-16-year-old-girl-164129528.html