Media’s “Double Standards” On Rape Debated

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Most news organizations have not used the name of basektball star Kobe Bryant’s accuser, but the Christian Science Monitor says “they’ve been quick to give every other personal detail of her life: where she went to college, the town she lives in, what her house looks like. They’ve aired and printed rumors that she was ‘hospitalized for her own protection,’ overdosed on drugs, bragged about the encounter with Mr. Bryant, and tried out for American Idol. For the past month, the media have camped out at her Colorado home.”

“The celebrity angle, the intense competition, and the Internet have all kind of lined up to create a situation where it makes it very difficult for journalists to remember what their standards are for covering sexual assault,” says Kelly McBride of Florida’s Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

The Bryant case is prompting a re-examination of the name-disclosure issue. Some wonder “whether withholding victims’ names actually contributes to rape’s stigma, cultivating a silent shame. Many have also raised the issue of fairness to the accused: False charges of rape can, after all, ruin a life,” the Monitor says.

In celebrity cases, says Helen Benedict, author of “Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes.” “Terrible double standards come into play.” But most news papers agree that while they’d like to ease shame around rape – and may seek out victims willing to talk – it’s too soon to name them all. National surveys show that rape victims’ No. 1 concern is people knowing they’ve been attacked – even ahead of worries about sexually transmitted diseases.

After Bryant’s brief court appearance yesterday in Eagle, Co., the Los Angeles Times said that because judges typically take personal and professional factors into consideration, the trial could be delayed until next summer – after the NBA playoffs.


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