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Advocacy organizations such as MaleSurvivor are making concerted efforts to encourage the media to best practices that do not minimize and/or further harm victims of sexual abuse in their reporting on these stories. Unfortunately, media coverage of sexual abuse, and of male sexual victimization in particular, often reflects many of the misunderstandings about sexual abuse that are in the public consciousness.
Op-ed: Double standard minimizes the sexual abuse of males
Salt Lake City Tribune, 4/4/15
As one example, we strongly feel that the word “relationship” should never be used when reporting on sexual crimes (whether alleged or proven). The word relationship in this context communicates the presumption that both parties are peers and fully capable of consenting the interactions they share. This presumption undermines the very concept that there could be anything harmful or improper about the contact being reported. Sadly, however, there is a pronounced bias in the media to to call sexual assault a “relationship” when the victim is male and the perpetrator is female.
MaleSurvivor and our partners believe that we all share similar goals with the media in wanting to create well informed communities. We believe that responsible reporting on issues such as sexual violence leads to a better informed society, which in turn creates more support for survivors and more effective prevention of abuse from happening at all.
When it comes to rape and sexual violence in particular, responsible reporting can also help create a safer society by reminding people that rape and sexual assault and sexual coercion are not victimless crimes. Whether a person forces themselves sexually up a victim, or whether they willfully and flagrantly disregard policies prohibiting sexual contact with certain populations (students, patients, children, etc… ) the truth that victimization takes place is the same. Reporting on these violations should reflect the potential seriousness of the harm caused by the victimization. Perpetrators who commit acts of sexual abuse are not engaging in consensual sexual activity, they are committing crimes and causing harm. When someone has a role of power, influence, and authority over someone else – such as when a student is molested by a teacher – consent cannot be given and is an irrelevant consideration.
Our organization has worked with many male victims whose stories shatter the perception that a man who is the victim of sexual abuse is luck. These men often have tragic backstories of trauma and abuse that make them vulnerable targets to perpetrators. Even if they did not have difficult backgrounds, there can often be significant emotional and psychological damage in the aftermath of sexual abuse that follows these men throughout their adult lives.
Therefore MaleSurvivor and our partners urge the media to review editorial policies for reporting on cases of rape and discontinue the use of minimizing and avoidant terminology in reporting on cases of sexual assault and rape.
We provide the resources and information in this section in hopes of providing a series of best practices and information for the media to use whenever reporting on male sexual abuse.