“..treat your sources like humans…” and other tips for reporting sexual violence

Feministing.org carries a post linking to two others that discuss how to report gender violence.

Jessica Valenti, How to Write About Rape: Rules for Journalists, The Nation, October 25, 2013.

“—When an adult is charged with assaulting a minor or someone is someone is accused of assaulting an unconscious person, don’t refer to the crime as “sex with a child” or “sex with an unconscious person.” Call it rape—because that’s what it is . . .

—If you find yourself writing or editing a sentence that describes what a rape victim wore, the kind of makeup she had on or that she acted “older than her age” (I’m looking at you, New York Times)—stop it . . .

—If the victim you are reporting about comes from a marginalized community—if they are queer, trans, poor, disabled, an immigrant, a person of color or a sex worker—take extra care that the pernicious stereotypes that surround that community do not impact your piece . . .

—If you run a story exploring the reasons why rape happens, focus on the perpetrator, not the victim’s behavior. Because despite what Emily Yoffe writes, the common denominator in most rapes is not young women drinking, the common denominator is rapists.”

Annie Clark, “Did Your Blood Splatter or Pour?” and Other Media Mistakes: Interviewing a Survivor of Sexual Assault, Huff Post College, September 26, 2013.

“First piece of advice: If you want to report on human-interest stories, at least can treat your sources like humans…

1. Do your homework…

2. If you get past those initial 30 seconds (congrats!), make your source comfortable by stating that the individual can share as much or as little information the individual wants…

3. Use some old-fashioned common sense…

4. Do not blame the victim. Ever. Period. If you don’t know what victim blaming is, please see #1.

5. With phone interviews, do not call any survivor ten, hell three, times or more in an hour. Ditto with Facebooking, texting, tweeting and emailing. That’s called cyber-stalking.

6. With live or in-person interviews, please be respectful of the fact that your sources are people (and often they are students) first…

7. Be respectful and knowledgeable of the time zone in which your source is located…

8. Pay attention to the story the survivor wants told and take that framing into consideration…  at the end of the day while these are your articles, these are our stories. (emphasis added).

9. Do not over-sensationalize…

10. Do not expect people to cry or to be a “poor victim.””

I’ve posted extracts because I think this information is really important. Please link to and read the original posts if your Internet connection permits.

Post-script: Another useful resource, this time related to video interviews by Witness.org: Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews with Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. This is based on two decades of training on best practices.

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