Date of Award

4-27-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Albanese, John

Keywords

content analysis, feminist critical theory, news media, rape culture, rape myths, sexual assault

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Rape myths are widely held beliefs that work against victims of sexual assault by attributing blame for their victimization to them. These myths can affect the victim at every stage of criminal proceedings to the extent that treatment informed by these myths can re-traumatize the victim causing even more long-lasting effects on their mental health. The 2009 discovery of approximately 11,000 untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in Detroit called attention to rape culture which motivated nation-wide and state-level initiatives to engage with the public and dismantle these harmful beliefs. By using this discovery as a pivotal point for rape culture, this research argues that this could have had an effect on news media outlets. This research seeks to understand the representation of sexual assault in print news media by comparing key variables in sexual assault cases published in the Detroit Free Press to sexual assault cases reported to law enforcement in Michigan. The results showed that although the gender of the victim and the location of the assault has become more representative since the discovery of the backlog, the age of the victim, relationship to the accused, and presence or absence of injury have not. This research argues that misrepresentation in news media can contribute to, and reinforce preexisting beliefs of rape myths among the general populace which can affect the victim’s access to legal, medical, and emotional services.

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