Quick Hit: How to write about rape

Women drinking

“Fun-Loving White Girls Just Asking to be Raped,” Slate-style

Jessica published a piece at the Nation offering guidance to writers reporting on rape. She points out some common problems with coverage on sexual violence — including the hilariously/terrifyingly predictable stock photos of “Fun-Loving White Girls Just Asking to be Raped,” and presents four tips for doing it right:

—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.

You can read the full article here. If you liked Valenti’s piece, make sure to check out activist Annie Clark’s guide to interviewing survivors, based on her own experiences.

Alexandra

Alexandra Brodsky is a Feministing editor, law student, and activist who talks about rape a lot.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/rubymcgee/ Sue Nugent

    I wrote a book about sexual assault in the military and for me it was important to not sound weak or being wrong and I chose not to describe it in vivid terms–I wanted no one to find pleasure in the pain.
    I also wrote it as a novel rather than really making it about me one person–as thousands of women in the military are victims.