Discussions around the inaccuracy of reporting on rape are definitely not new, but reporting on the recent Penn State case (and subsequent complaints by news readers) has compelled Arthur Brisbane at the New York Times to take on the issue in more detail:
It is common for newspapers to use terms like “sexual assault” and “sexual abuse” and “have sex” when reporting on sex crimes. Perhaps, though, it’s time that The Times and other news organizations take another look at the language they use. Victims’ advocates echo what the readers told me in their e-mails: language in news media reports — and, for that matter, in the court system itself — consistently underplays the brutality of sex crimes and misapplies terms that imply consent.
“We constantly talk about victims having sex with their perpetrator,” said Claudia J. Bayliff, project attorney for the National Judicial Education Program and a longtime advocate for victims of sex crimes. “We talk about children performing oral sex on their perpetrator, which suggests a consensual act and a volitional act. We use ‘fondled,’ ‘had sex with,’ ‘performed oral sex on’ — all those kinds of terms.”
It’s a super important read — check out the whole thing.