For Immediate Release: Child sexual exploitation reporting: media must do better
Campaigning movement Collective Shout have partnered with Sydney Feminists to call upon the media to report responsibly in regards to child sexual exploitation.
Brisbane writer Jas Rawlinson outlined the failings of mainstream media in her recent piece How The Media Continue to Traumatise Child-Exploitation Survivors, published on Collective Shout’s website.
In reporting on crimes of sexual violence against children, news outlets frequently use terminology that suggests acts of sexual abuse are sexual acts between adult and child. Phrases commonly used include ‘sex with child’ or describe a ‘sexual relationship’ between the perpetrator and victim.
Collective Shout’s Caitlin Roper says the media have significant power in the shaping of cultural attitudes on sexual violence.
“When child sexual abuse is reported as ‘sex’ or a relationship between the two parties, rather than recognised for what it is—adults preying on children—this has significant influence on people’s attitudes to and understanding of these issues,” she says.
“It feeds into damaging myths that victims contribute in some way to their abuse, and only serves to keep the focus on those victims - unfairly opening their behaviour up to public scrutiny.”
Canadian author Carrie Bailee, who escaped to Australia aged 20 after surviving a childhood of sexual exploitation, says it’s vital that media and public figures are educated on the impact of trauma abuse and ethical reporting.
“The amount of courage it takes to report sexual abuse or assault and get to a space where you feel ready to come forward with your story is enormous, because the shame [experienced] becomes embedded long after the abuse stops,” she explains.
“Although It has been heartening to see a gradual change in the way journalists discuss child sexual abuse victims, with terms such as ‘child pornography’ now more often referred to as ‘child exploitation material’, many are still yet to take note,” says Jas Rawlinson.
“Whether it be a case of media outlets preferring sensationalism over sensitivity, or unintentional ignorance, it’s time for the media to do away with terms that diminish the abuse done to victims, and to begin reporting with dignity.”
Supporters of the campaign are encouraged to use the hashtag #LanguageMatters on social media.