Rape and the Internet:
Demands for Change
Source: https://rainn.org/statistics, accessed March 8, 2016
What are rape myths?
• Rape myths are false ideas about rape held by at least a few in society
(Edwards, Turchik, Dardis, Reynolds and Gidycz, 2011: 769), even if
there is proof it is false, and it must justify or even make acceptable,
sexual aggression against another person within a society, most often
that of a man against a woman (Lonsway and Fitzgerald, 1994: 134).
• They are found everyone in society–legal definitions, religious beliefs,
popular music, TV and movies
• The news media
Social Media as Counter-
“The Internet, and social media in particular, has provided girls
and women with unparalleled opportunities to form and
participate in counter-publics in which allegations of sexual
violence are being received, discussed, and acted upon in ways
contrary to established social and legal norms” (Salter, 2013:
226). In other words, the internet has created new spaces for
victims and those who are against rape culture to tell their
stories and demand change.
Pew Data 2013
• 30% of adults in the U.S. get news from Facebook
• 10% adults in the U.S. get news from YouTube
• 78% of Facebook users only saw the news on Facebook, and a full
22% thought that Facebook was a good way to get news
Source: Duggan, Maeve, Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart, and Mary Madden.
“Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms.” Pew Research Center (January 9, 2015)
CNN’s Facebook Post
March 17, 2013, CNN posted the following of their Facebook page:
“BREAKING NEWS: Two Steubenville high school football players
accused of raping an allegedly drunk 16-year-old girl were found guilty
by an Ohio judge on Sunday” (CNN, 2013) with the link to the
associated article published on CNN.com.
Are these comments having
any effect on the news
• Poppy Harlow, the reporter who expressed such sorrow for the Steubenville
rapists, never apologized for her comments, and neither did CNN. If fact, the
Huffington Post (2013) reported that Poppy was ‘outraged’ at the backlash.
According to the article, two insiders at CNN stated that Poppy could not believe
that viewers thought her coverage was slanted towards the rapists, and that she
was taking the criticism very personally (Shapiro, 2013). Clearly, even with
thousands of comments against them, CNN was unwilling to say sorry, and in this
regard, the commenters and petitioners demands were left unanswered.
Did coverage change?
• Doing a search for the word ‘rape’ on CNN’s website does show
some hopeful signs. In an article published on January 28, 2015, they
cover the story of two Vanderbilt football players who were found
guilty of raping an unconscious girl. The article contains two quotes
that clearly state that the victim is never at fault for a sexual assault.
In addition, although the boys were thrown off the football team, the
sympathy expressed in the article was only for the girl, not for the
consequences that the boys had to face (Almasay, 2015).
• However, in another story recently covered, that of an Indianapolis
Colts player accused of rape, the story goes into great detail about
how many drinks the victim had had that night. The article states that
the victim was drunk. In addition, the story tells of how the woman
fought back against the rape, including physical attacks on the rapist
(McLaughlin, 2015). While the rape myths in this story are subtle,
they are still there. This story spreads the rape myth about how much
a woman has to fight for a case to be called rape.
• There are hopeful signs that many in society are fighting back against
the rape myths found in news media and they are using the internet to
do it. As shown by the comments on Facebook and YouTube in
response to CNN’s coverage, there were many people who were very
upset with the victim blaming and sympathy shown towards the rapists
in CNN’s coverage. While a few of their voices can be found in
traditional print media, there are even more voices online through
websites and social media.
• However, with user privacy and the anonymous nature of the internet, it
is very difficult to draw any strong conclusions as to who is commenting,
and therefore who is speaking up against rape myths in the media.
Further research needs to be conducted to determine the specific
demographics of those who comment on social media as a way to start
conversations against rape myths in society.