The report, Case by Case: News coverage of child sexual abuse, was announced last week by Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute.
The study examined national news stories on child sexual abuse published between 2007 and 2009. Fewer than one story a week focused on the topic and even fewer covered the issue in detail. Several troubling patterns emerged, such as:
• Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of stories were tied to a criminal justice news hook such as an arrest or trial that related to the aftermath of the abuse -- placing emphasis on the perpetrator instead of on the impact the abuse has on survivors, their families, and the wider community, and portraying child sexual abuse as an isolated event, void of a larger social context.“Clearly, the media must play a stronger role in helping policymakers and the public understand the root causes of abuse and what each of us can do to prevent it before it occurs,” said Monique Hoeflinger, senior program officer at the Ms. Foundation for Women.
• Prevention was rarely mentioned. Less than one-third (30 percent) of stories discussed solutions. Of those, the overwhelming majority focused on interventions to address abuse after the fact, while only a handful looked at preventing future abuse.
Case by Case was released just as the Ms. Foundation announced $600,000 in grants to a total of 15 organizations as part of its program to end child sexual abuse.
“This report will be an incredible resource for advocates nationwide, including the organizations we support directly,” added Monique. “From working within Native American and religious communities, to advocating for new federal policies, our grantees are pursuing innovative strategies to shift public thinking and engage families, communities and policymakers to end child sexual abuse once and for all.”
Learn more about our work to end child sexual abuse.