UVA Rape Case: Let’s Talk About Media Coverage

by , under personal, Pirate

Yesterday, police announced that they found no evidence to support Rolling Stone’s story about a rape at UVA. I collected a few tweets from news agencies, going from most recent to oldest.

Meanwhile, this is what @AP tweeted:

So let’s look at what everyone shared – these news social media accounts led with the police finding no evidence. ABC doubled down on their initial tweet, which helpfully included that the alleged victim didn’t cooperate with the investigation (making it look like her fault, when Rolling Stone already dragged her through the mud) and said that the fraternity is looking into legal action. Of all these major news sources, only AP (who tweeted this as the news announced) bothered to choose their words carefully. They tweeted that the investigation was suspended. Then they followed up with a reminder from the police that the lack of evidence didn’t mean that nothing happened to the victim.

Everyone else used the phrase ‘lack of evidence’ over and over. And there’s a problem with the pervasiveness of crime shows like CSI. We’re used to thinking that evidence is everywhere. When the reality is that you don’t always get forensic evidence, or a big enough sample to test. You aren’t always lucky enough to get a camera on it. So when Americans hear a phrase like there’s a lack of evidence, they assume that if there’s no evidence, there’s no crime.

I am angered to see the way that media covers these cases. The phrases they use, the way they rush to find people to defend the accused and share stories of what good boys they are, and let the victims become tried instead- because naturally if they’ve ever made a single poor decision at any time in their life, it couldn’t possibly be rape. (Think Progress wrote this excellent summary of where the media failed when it came to covering the Steubenville rape case)

Is it any wonder that women are reluctant to report? Do you honestly blame the victim in this case for not wanting to help police?

What do you think the media should do to change?