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Rape and the Internet: Demands for Change


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ESS presentation 2016

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Rape and the Internet: Demands for Change

  1. 1. Rape and the Internet: Demands for Change Kari Waters Syracuse University ESS 2016
  2. 2. Rape Statistics Source:, accessed March 8, 2016
  3. 3. Rape Myths 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
  4. 4. Rape Myths in News Media
  5. 5. Steubenville Data
  6. 6. India Data
  7. 7. Comparing Coverage
  8. 8. Social Media as Counter- publics “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.
  9. 9. 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) [cited 03/07/2015].
  10. 10. Pew Demographics 2013
  11. 11. More Pew Data 2013
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. CNN’s Word Cloud
  14. 14. Facebook Comments
  15. 15. CNN News Story on YouTube
  16. 16. YouTube Comments
  17. 17. Are these comments having any effect on the news media? • 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.
  18. 18. 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.
  19. 19. Conclusion • 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.