Warped reporting at Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph

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Trigger warning – this post discusses sexual violence.

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It’s tough being a woman. We just walk down the street and then, out of nowhere, an assault happens to us. We need to be particularly careful of these disembodied assaults that just hang around until they can happen at someone. At least, that’s the impression I get when journalists report on violence against women: men don’t assault women, it’s just that women have assaults happen to them.

Today’s story is awful. On Sunday morning, a group of men kidnapped a woman and raped her. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been and how much it must have hurt. I can’t imagine how any victim of a crime like this copes in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. I really hope that this post does not add to her trauma because that is not my intention at all. My intention is to make journalists think about why they report violence against women in a way that almost removes the perpetrator from the crime.

AAP was the first to report the story. On dailytelegraph.com.au they headlined it Sydney woman abducted and gang-raped by group of men, police say. On smh.com.au they headlined it Sydney teen abducted and sexually assaulted by gang. They are both passive sentences – generally frowned upon in journalism. But it becomes more sinister when you consider that passive sentences are usually used to deflect blame, to be vague about who is responsible, or because the person responsible is unimportant.

Four hours after they published the AAP copy, smh.com.au had an updated version (with two bylines and an additional nine words): ‘I don’t think it gets more serious': woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say.

Call me crazy but I think the men did something more serious than ask for directions.

The journalist (Rachel Olding) even includes this sentence at the end:

The victim, who was not affected by alcohol at the time, has been receiving intense counselling and is being supported by her family, Detective Superintendant Kerletec said.

Now, I don’t know if Olding asked the alcohol question, or if another journalist asked it and she reported the answer, or if Kerletec anticipated the question, or if Kerletec believes it’s important, but how is it relevant to a story about other people committing a violent crime? What do journalists think it actually means if she had been drinking? That the crime those men committed is less of a crime? That it’s somehow her fault? That it’s ok for a group of men to assault someone who has been drinking? What? They obviously think it means something important, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked. I’d really like a journalist to let me know why they asked the alcohol question – why they always ask the alcohol question – because I’ve been a journalist and it never occurred to me to ask it.

Here’s the story on smh.com.au:

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

The men who committed the crime aren’t even mentioned.

Compare that to another crime story below it:

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

If the robbery story was reported the same way as the assault story, the standfirst would read: “AN Armaguard van was attacked early this morning while parked on a street in Glebe.” It might even include this sentence: “The van, which was not affected by alcohol at the time, had previously been at a bank where it collected a large amount of money.”

But wait, there’s more.

In one story, ‘I don’t think it gets more serious': woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say, the criminals are barely mentioned in the first two sentences:

Police say an alleged gang-rape attack on a teenager in Sydney’s north-west is “as worse as it gets”.

The 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a car load of five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills on Sunday morning, police said.

In the other, Shot fired at Broadway: gang attempts to rob van, the criminals are the main part of the first two sentences:

Four men have attempted a brazen armed robbery of a cash-in-transit van outside a Sydney inner-city shopping centre, witnesses say.

A witness to the incident said three of the men approached the Armaguard truck armed with firearms outside Broadway Shopping Centre at 8:30am on Monday.

Two crime stories, both involving gangs of men, but reported very differently. Why is that?

Here’s the story on dailytelegraph.com.au:

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney's northwest.

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney’s northwest.

The bit mentioning the gang of men is tucked into the middle of the sentence so you don’t really notice it.

Now, compare it to the story below it on the homepage:

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

The focus of sentence is the alleged criminals, not the victims. Again, the opposite of the way journalists report violence against women.

We get this constant stream of “a woman was abducted on the way home, a woman was sexually assaulted while drunk, a woman was assaulted in her home, a woman had something bad happen to her because she was somewhere late at night” because journalists pretend that assault just hangs out on the street waiting for a woman to walk past so it can happen at her. Assault is not something that’s just part of being a woman, like periods or a squirty bot bot after eating three-day-old takeaway that was a bit iffy. Assault is a crime committed by another person. Yet it’s reported as though that other person doesn’t exist. There are two options here: one, journalists don’t bother to think about the words they use; or two, they want us to believe that men aren’t to blame for the majority of assaults against women. So, journalists are either stupid, or they’re arseholes. I don’t know which is worse.

Update:
The smh.com.au story now has video. The caption reads: NSW police are warning women to be cautious on the street after an 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills.

No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.

140 responses to “Warped reporting at Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph

  1. Excellent piece. Reporting of sexual violence is horrific: journalists often try to sex-up rape by calling it a ‘sex attack’ rather than a ‘human rights violation’. They include things like whether or not the victim was drinking (or in Paul Sheehans case in “Girls Like You”- the type of underwear the victim was wearing) to establish innocence or guilt. (disgusting). They relentlessly scrutinize the choices and actions of the victims while treating the perpetrators decision to assault someone as merely inevitable… it’s all horrible.

    • “Sex attack” always makes me think of that “hilarious” thing that guys in their late teens/early twenties say: “It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex”.

      Nina Funnell, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  2. Thank you for this post. As I’ve read such things in the news, I’ve tended to assume that journalists fall back on passive voice when no-one’s been convicted (yet) and they’re unable to name the perpetrator. Your comparison between assaults against women and other crimes show that there are active alternatives and journalists use them in other circumstances.

  3. I’m going to go with they’re BOTH stupid AND arseholes! Sorry but I’m in a bad mood today because I’m getting so tired of this shit.

    • After the last post I wrote on this topic, a few journos contacted me and said “oh shit, you’re right, I hadn’t noticed that we do that”.

      Syd, I am also tired of this shit. But welcome to the News with Nipples.

  4. It would be nice if they were just stupid, but I imagine they are assholes.
    Problem is that we are so used to reading it that, had you not told me, I doubt I would have noticed. I always switch things around in my head and I don’t even think about the woman being responsible unless the report specifically suggests that. I know that rape and assault are horrible crimes, especially against women and children. According to US law, the woman would not be responsible even if she started out by calling the men names. Assault is a greater offense and they would only be correct in calling her names back.
    Scott

  5. Gotta love this fucked up patriarchy we live in. Not.

  6. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. The crime is so awful, I guess I never analyzed the way sentences were constructed. But it is true that the language used can desensitize us from the fact. Nice if, following your article, some journalists have become conscious of how they write. Keep at it.

    • Thanks Ros. Just last week I was talking to a friend about how I don’t have to write this post very often these days. A few years ago I was writing it almost weekly. Welcome to the News with Nipples.

  7. [an attack on a woman at any level of sobriety or inebriation is, of course, terrible. just a thought though…]

    A sexual assault on a drunk woman could almost be considered worse, because she is more vulnerable and her ability to respond and fight back could be impaired.

    Also, just another thought, what about the possible argument that the rapists aren’t mentioned as directly so as not to draw attention to and glorify them? Like often serial killers names aren’t used so they don’t detract from the victims?

    Love the blog, keep up the good work!!

    • Thanks Freyja. But killers are named. You just have to look at the coverage of massacres in the US – the coverage in Australia and around the world – to see that they ARE glorified. Their faces are all over the news. They become famous.

      • Would be interesting to know whether reporters/the media are asked specifically [by police, families etc] to not use the criminals’ names in their reports; and how often these requests are ignored

        • The accused’s family might ask, but it won’t get them very far. Journos can report a criminal/alleged criminal’s name unless there’s a suppression order from the court to keep their identity secret. Or if the victim is underaged and naming the accused will identify the victim (eg, cases of parental neglect, family court matters).

          With this story, all the journos would know is the description of one of the guys in the van. There’s no legal reason why they can’t put the focus of the story on the people who committed the crime.

      • Thanks for the post. I don’t really get your reply here though – would it be better then if the alleged attacker WAS glorified? Surely neither of those two things are good – to ignore the perpetrators, or make them infamous. I also don’t think we should make individual perpetrators who are found guilty of particular crimes responsible for the entire problem of violence against women either. Crime as a social phenomenon is so much more complicated than that. But that’s another issue.

        • Ah, I didn’t make my point very well. With massacres, the attacker is glorified. The story leads the news all around the world, with every development, every piece of the shooter’s history, slobbered on. But with general crime reporting, this doesn’t happen. Reporting the crime does not glorify it.

          Lizzie, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  8. This is an eye opener for me. I had been aware of the way passive language had been used during the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to minimize the extent of the violence but this post has highlighted the way women are seen almost as magnetized particles attracting rape out of thin air. Thanks

  9. Reblogged this on From A Whisper To A Roar and commented:
    This! Reporting on sexual assault and rape shows clear signs of deflection and places the victim under the microscope rather than a GANG of predators! Yes, I too would like to see a message at the end of each report: Be warned – Rape and Sexual Assault will NOT BE TOLERATED and you will feel the FULL FORCE OF THE LAW. With some menace. You know, like the threats spewed at desperate people seeking asylum. Except more appropriate and backing up real victims of very real crimes.

  10. Being assholes is definitely worse; if they’re just stupid, at least they can potentially learn.

  11. Actually Rachel Olding seems to be a bit of a serial offender. Here is her epic-slut-shaming effort “Do you know what your daughter is doing tonight?” (Guess what she’s doing? She’s going out and acting as bait for slut shamers, statuatory rapists and victim blamers). http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/do-you-know-what-your-daughters-doing-tonight-20110629-1gqda.html

  12. Just thinking about the glorification of criminals, I get mad/sad when photos of criminal and victim are on same page next to each other. To me this is one more assault on the victim. Thanks for your blog and for making a difference

    • Or when journalists pretend it’s some sort of romantic murder – he killed her because he loved her so much. Fuck off with that shit.

      Joy, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  13. Noted also is that the gang attempted to rob the van, whereas the woman was allegedly gang raped. One story is fact. The other story’s credibility is questionable. Innocent until proven guilty.

    I’d like to see police cautioning women to carry a glock.

    • Let’s see if journalists can use “allegedly” correctly. Police statements about the woman’s injuries indicate she was raped and bashed, so when/if the men are caught, they are the alleged attackers, there’s no alleged attack.

      I notice the line about alcohol has been removed from the version in the paper today.

      • Exactly. If a journalist went home and discovered that the front door was kicked down and all their belongings were stolen, they wouldn’t report that they had been “allegedly” robbed. They would say “I WAS robbed and I’m alleging that it was John Smith from down the street who did it.”

  14. Lambylovescake

    This is an excellent piece. I think another reason media report crimes with a focus on the victim is because it supports a broader ‘fear of crime/stranger danger’ agenda. By making the victim the centre of the story, it fuels the fear that it could happen to you. Governments capitalise on these fears and manufacture consent to implement ‘tough on crime’ agendas. It’s disgraceful.

  15. Thank you for this story. Thank you, so much, for eloquently telling a side to the story I’ve been trying to share but am too outraged to do in any sort of coherent manner. I do think adding this is some form of productive contribution though:

    So long as we focus on girls not getting raped instead of men raping, all we are effectively doing is providing defences for those that continue to act in predatory, disgusting ways, because it’s just so easy to say “well if she wasn’t walking alone, if she wasn’t drinking, if she wasn’t in that skirt, on that street, at that hour, then it wouldn’t have happened! He was confused! She was right there when no one else was! HE just ASSUMED that she must’ve WANTED it! It was just a GAME she’s taken it too PERSONALLY it isn’t his FAULT”

    Which is effectively all that the media has done.

    Also on the use of ‘allegedly’… it’s hardly an ‘alleged assault’ if the poor girl has had to be taken to hospital for treatment, is it? A bashing victim in a coma wasn’t ‘allegedly assaulted’ he was assaulted. That’s it.

    • Ruby, that link is great.

      Compare the police message of this story – women need to be cautious – with the police message when a man is attacked. They didn’t tell men to be careful, they said “People should be able to go on a night out and go home in the shape that they left home – and that is in one piece.”

      • That quote just made me THAT much more furious. Thanks for sharing, keep up the great work!!

      • “People should be able to go on a night out and go home in the shape that they left home – and that is in one piece.” – and they are talking about everyone: women and men. Another example of how this sort of ridiculous reactionary behaviour is stopping people from taking equal rights issues seriously. What a joke.

        • Camgould, you’ve missed the point. Again. What a surprise.

          I tell you what, you continue doing whatever it is you’re doing to promote equality – which I suspect is fuck all because your comments demonstrate your lack of understanding of any of the issues – and I’ll continue doing what I’m doing.

          I think you’ve outstayed your welcome here.

          • “I think you’ve outstayed your welcome here” – that’s pathetic, and you know it. Are you really the kind of person who just censors things you disagree with? You clearly are part of the problem. Your reactionary and childish approach is why people have a hard time taking things like this seriously. Shame on you.

            • Get your hand off it. No one is censoring you. You are free to start your own blog, and to comment on other blogs. You’ve had your say here and have demonstrated that you’re not willing to listen to anything but your own voice. You’ve also demonstrated that you have no knowledge of the issues that we are discussing and, despite pretending that you do, you have no solutions whatsoever. That’s why I am tired of you.

              • “No one is censoring you” except that you are suggesting my comments aren’t welcome. “You’ve had your say here and have demonstrated that you’re not willing to listen to anything but your own voice” not at all true and you know it. I don’t agree with you, and you don’t like that. “you have no solutions whatsoever” Also not true. You haven’t even given a chance for me to do anything but react to your extremist ideas. The first step is always to address misnomers in someones address.

  16. I think you have completely misunderstood the way the reporting was done, and are loading your response with way too much conjecture. For one, mentioning the fact that the victim was not affected by alcohol is likely a pre-emptive move to make sure readers don’t jump to conclusions and start blaming the victim. Your whole article is full of mistakes like that. The opening line is quite ridiculous and cheapens the whole piece. These issues are serious, and this kind of approach is not at all helpful. Quite the opposite.

    • Cam Gould, I think you have missed the point of the entire blog post. I suggest you read it again.

      • Just did. No, I am fairly certain I really haven’t. Unless the whole thing is ironic?

      • Ok, my first comment was a flippant response. Cam Gould, I was a journalist for 10 years. I know how reporting is done, thankyouverymuch. So there’s the first part of your comment dealt with. Now, your line about the alcohol bit. We live in a culture that always – ALWAYS – asks what a woman was doing when she was attacked. What she was wearing. What she was drinking. To suggest that Olding included that line to stop readers jumping to conclusions is naive. And finally, the point of the post is to point out the different ways these crime stories are reported. Are you ok with the way the stories about a violent assault on a woman almost remove the perpetrator from the story? Because I am certainly not ok with that.

        • Yes, flippant. But also (inadvertently perhaps) it created a premise that set a tone for the piece. I’m glad you are an expert in how everyone reports and thinks. That’s great. So that’s that dealt with.

          Your assumptions are a little naive from my point of view. You have loaded your responses with way too much eagerness to blame everyone, rather than looking at the issue as a whole. I believe your viewpoint is more skewed, and less helpful. I just googled news reports about men as victim of assault, and found that exactly the same situation exists for men. This is because people feel sorry for victims, so the focus is put on them. Bad journalism, yes. Sexism, no.

          The example of the van is good for polarising the point. The difference about the way the van and a human are reported is a terrible example (no matter how humorous), as the victim in the latter has feelings, unlike the van.

          “No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.” That is because that is assumed, and clearly something abhorrent. It is not illegal to be out at night. It is very illegal to assault someone. Hence the warning, as they feel there may be some predators around that they haven’t been able to deal with yet.

          In truth, I am on your side. I believe the problems with the way women are treated are an incredibly important issue. I also think the discussion needs to become a little more informed and proactive, and less about looking to blame anyone and everyone.

          I personally believe it is time to start focussing on answers to the problems. Not the other way around.

          • “No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.” That is because that is assumed, and clearly something abhorrent. It is not illegal to be out at night. It is very illegal to assault someone. Hence the warning, as they feel there may be some predators around that they haven’t been able to deal with yet. Bullshit. When a young man is king hit in the street, the police say “hey people, when you’re out tonight, don’t king hit someone”. They also say “we will catch you”. When a woman is assaulted, police say “women, be careful, be cautious”. Cam, one in four Australian women will be assaulted in their lifetime. Clearly whatever we as a society have been doing to prevent assault IS NOT WORKING. One in four.

            I am not “looking to blame everyone and anyone”. I am very clearly saying that the way journalists report violence against women is different to the way they report violence against men, or any other crime, and the effect of that reporting is to remove the criminal from the crime.

  17. Ahem. And we’re telling the Indian Government and Police off for their attitudes towards women?

  18. This was a great article. I agree with posters above who say they didn’t notice until it was pointed out. But now I see it everywhere. And the update about police warning women to be more careful? Ugh, just UGH.

    It’s really exhausting to know how wrong institutionalised sexism is and to just be bombarded with it everywhere, all the time. Good on you for keeping at it and not shutting down with the overload, like I sometimes feel like doing.

  19. I just read a News.com article about it which ended with the predictable, ‘don’t go near strangers, stay in brightly lit areas, have a phone on you’ blah blah.
    What are you supposed to do? Fight the attackers off with one’s phone?

    And in case anyone is still wondering WHY it is a problem giving advice like this, what happens if someone DIDN’T do those things and got raped? Is that their fault?
    And if they DID do those things and got raped? What else did they do ‘WRONG’?

    It’s just all so bloody horrible and sad – telling people that if they do things ‘better’ they will be ‘safer’.

    This poor girl did nothing wrong.

    • Exactly. All this public space being wasted on telling women how to avoid being attacked – which clearly isn’t working because one in four Australian women are attacked in their lifetime – and no space being used to tell men not to attack women. And I am not saying that all men are rapists.

      • I went and read that News.com.au piece. It’s repackaged from the Tele, and includes this absolutely fucking ridiculous line: “Our reporter Ian Walker follows the terrifying footsteps of the victim. Read more in tomorrow’s paper.” Riiiight. So he’s going to write a story about what it’s like to walk on a street. Talk about slobbering on a story.

    • Sorry to have to say this, but that is a really stupid approach to take. The phone is for calling someone if there are suspicious people lurking around and you are feeling ‘stalked’ etc. Those are all good advice. Sad to say, but women generally ARE weaker, and some men ARE predators. It’s part of the instincts humans have from more animalistic times.

      “And in case anyone is still wondering WHY it is a problem giving advice like this, what happens if someone DIDN’T do those things and got raped? Is that their fault?” NO! It’s simply advice to try and avoid these situations occurring.

      “It’s just all so bloody horrible and sad – telling people that if they do things ‘better’ they will be ‘safer’.” – yes, it is sad and horrible. DUH! Of course it’s good to reenforce the ideas of being aware of staying safe… for women AND men.

      “This poor girl did nothing wrong” – no one ever suggested she did, and the people here who are suggesting they did (based on this article) are naive, and simply looking for people to be angry at. Equality issues are real, and all these sort of ridiculous ‘misandresque’ conversations do is hold us back from finding solutions. I personally am really getting sick of the wasted, misdirected energy.

      No wonder ‘feminism’ is a dirty word for most people… women and men :(

      • Cam Gould, I don’t think you are “sorry to have to say” it at. I suspect it’s been your intention all along.

        “It’s simply advice to try and avoid these situations occurring.”
        Riiiiight. Don’t you think a more effective way to stop “these situations occurring” would be to stop people committing the crimes in the first place? You know, like we do with everything else. To stop people drink driving, we don’t tell sober drivers to stay off the road. To stop people king-hitting others in the street, we don’t tell everyone to stay indoors. To stop people robbing banks, we don’t tell everyone to keep their money at home. Because that would be fucking ridiculous. Yet when it comes to violence against women, our society tells women not to get drunk, not to walk somewhere, not to speak to people, not to dress too slutty, and our society does this instead of telling men not to attack women.

        And, since your comprehension skills seem to be lacking, I will spell it out very clearly for you. When we tell women that they need to do certain things to avoid being attacked, it says that if you don’t do those certain things, and they do get attacked, then it’s kinda their fault. If they had only followed the rules, they would have kept themselves safe. This is called victim blaming.

        By all means, do these certain things if they make you feel safe, but do them knowing that they do not actually make you safe. The vast majority of attacks on women are carried out by someone known to the woman, inside her home.

      • Lols. You totally missed the point. The problem with the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ style advice is that
        1) we’ve been giving it to women for years. It hasn’t helped, in large part bc most rapes are commited by people known to the victim and
        2) putting the onus onto women to modify their behavior in order to forward manage the poor behavior of men totally reverses the responsibility involved.

        How about the article ending with some reminders to men on how to avoid raping people. Why don’t we tell men: stay in well lit areas so women will see you coming. Don’t talk to strangers, they don’t like it. Use the buddy system: If you insist on drinking bring a friend with you who can get you home safely without you raping someone….practice not raping. Practice it often. Think about your clothing and what it says about you…you might want to wear an ‘i sometimes think about rapingwomen’ t shirt just to be safe.

        • Yes yes absolutely.
          Anyone that thinks that being cautious and careful and sober and dressing neatly and respectably will protect them from being raped – should talk to people that have done so and still been raped.

          And seriously? Someone really thought I didn’t ‘understand’ why people are told to carry a phone on them?
          Let’s look at that – I get suspicious of someone walking nearby, so I ring someone and tell them that I am nervous of being alone at night when there is a suspicious-looking person around. Then what happens? Does the person I call miraculously teleport to where I am standing? Does the suspicious person get terrified of my Awesome Phone Of Death?
          WHAT HAPPENS THEN?
          How is that good advice?
          Telling women (or men, in case saying ‘women’ is misandrist…) the absolute bare minimum of bleeding obvious precautions is hardly good advice – it’s patronising bullshit and it does not prevent rape and assault.

  20. Wow Ruby your quote gave me goosebumps.

  21. The way these stories are written reflects the attitude of the writer which usually reflects the attitude of the readers. In this case the attitude is that women cause men to attack them by being careless in some way.
    We see the same bias in other things too. For instance cars and car drivers. The attitude is that car drivers are innocent, or very nearly, and that things they hit are at fault for being careless in some way. I have even seen a report of a car driver crashing into a tree written as “the car veered into the path of the tree.” When a car driver hits a cyclist it will be written as the cyclist colliding with the car. The driver will hardly be mentioned. There will also be spurious comments about what the cyclist was wearing etc. On the other hand when a jet ski rider killed a swimmer at a Melbourne beach it was written as “the jet ski rider rammed into the swimmer.” Clearly our attitude to jet ski riders, cyclists and women is different.
    It’s victim blaming which stems from the attitude and I don’t think the writers or readers are unaware of their attitude.

    • Absolutely. But I think it’s a little more murky at the awareness end. So, conversations I’ve had with people here and offline, people honestly believe that telling women to be careful is what will save them. That it’s good to tell women to do certain things – and not do certain things – in order to be safe. When you point out that they are blaming the victim, they get very angry and say no, they’re not, they’re just trying to give common sense advice. Because it does seem, at first, to be common sense advice. But “don’t get drunk” is only common sense advice if you’re asking “how do I avoid a hangover/how do I avoid spending all my money on a Friday night?” And when people are angry at you for saying they are blaming vicims, they aren’t in any mood to actually listen to what you’re saying.

      Which is a long way of saying that people aren’t really that aware of their attitudes and haven’t really thought through what those attitudes actually mean.

  22. It’s interesting that even women reporters (supposedly trained in the art of writing in the active voice) should also do this. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • There’s a lot of research into newsrooms that indicates that new recruits are very quick to adopt the attitudes of newsroom colleagues, so they fit in. (They’re very quick to dismiss the value of their university educations, because university educations still aren’t valued in newsrooms filled with university-educated journalists.) It’s why journalists all write the same way, and all cover politics from the same angle: to fit in, to show your colleagues you’re one of them.

      I don’t think journalists make a conscious decision to write these stories this way. It’s just the way they do it because it’s the way everyone else does it. And I have no doubt that it’s a hangover from the “good old days” where male journos didn’t have to be so sneaky about blaming women for male behaviour.

  23. It is very illegal to assault someone. Such a wordsmith. Thank cod he came by to drop that nugget of wisdom whilst at the same time missing the whole point of the piece and then arguing that he just wants a solution, while suggesting none! NWN you have the patience of a saint.

    • Thanks Sandra. I don’t reply to people who miss the point for their benefit, as it’s unlikely they’ll listen. I reply for the benefit of anyone else reading the comments.

  24. Ugh. Rachel olding has written another piece today about all the girls who are now afraid to walk home alone. Funny that, given yesterday’s fear mongrring efforts from the same publication. When will they ever acknowledge that as a woman you are safer on the street than in your own home- and that youre more likely to be raped by someone you know,than a stranger?

    • A friend of mine is a cop and he says the best thing a woman can do to prevent being attacked is to never have a boyfriend and never have a job. Because work colleagues and ex-boyfriends are statistically a MUCH bigger risk than a stranger in the street.

  25. It reminds of sinfest.net’s recent Feminist Utopia Fantasy Story… “It was midnight. Amanda felt like going for a walk. So she did. The End.”

    I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that what the media actually do when reporting on sexual violence may not (technically) be victim blaming, because the (very rare) reported instances where women are the perpetrators appear to me to be reported differently (I’m sure a more dubious source than my memory could be found, but it’d be hard). So, y’know, they’re just blaming all women instead of just the ones who are victims. Or maybe they’re trying to absolve the paragons of the patriarchy. I’m not sure which, but I don’t like it.

  26. Great article. I discuss this sort of language use in a Year 12 VCE subject I teach called English Language. I will be taking your article into class as a resource. I think it’s such an important thing to be aware of, because so often people do this kind of thing with language so frequently with very little thought of the effect/impact.

    • Wow. I feel incredibly honoured.

      I’m an optimist – I don’t think journalists write this way with malice. I just think they don’t think very much about the words they use. Which is weird when words are their job.

      Niamh, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  27. Dee Stuart-Walker

    Words are powerful & language important in forming views & opinions. Journalists are in a unique position to capitalise on this. So shame on those who just continue to perpetuate all the myths & stereotypes of the crime of rape. Rape is rape regardless of what the victim/survivor has or is doing. No means no every time. & certainly in Victorian legislation if a victim of rape is under the influence of alcohol or drugs then the law deems that they cannot have given free consent to ‘sex’. It is not about women keeping themselves safe. It is about believing women who have been raped, it is about appropriate police & prosecution responses & it is about holding the perpetrator/s accountable for their actions & appropriate consequences being enforced. Also over 85% of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who is known to the victim – stranger danger sexual assault is not the majority but it is more likely to be reported & taken seriously by the police & the criminal justice system. Although that is not an iron clad guarantee either! Sexual assault along with domestic violence is the most under reported crime & articles like this will only add to the long queue of victims/survivors who remain silent.

  28. (Sigh) I was immediately reminded of these posts by Lauredhel of Hoyden About Town

    http://hoydenabouttown.com/20080901.2147/raped-by-elves/

    And this one

    http://hoydenabouttown.com/20081009.2299/passive-voice-watch-invisible-rapist-in-sussex/

    And thinking that FIVE YEARS ON you’re needing to call journalists out on the same thing.

  29. I think they’re actually trying to emphasise the victim in order to garner a higher emotional response with readers… but I agree, there should be more emphasis on the actual perpetrator of the crime…

  30. I think your final comment, ‘No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women’ explains perfectly the skewed language that is reiterated as journalistic premise . There seems to be a socially accepted idea that men don’t need to hold each other to account, an idea endemic to institutions: think police/military, media, law etc. Historically these institutions care little for the rights of women in and of themselves. Men at all levels of society must speak – with pride and no shame – in defense of the role of women (wherever relevant) in society especially where issues such as violence against women/rape are long-standing, difficult and complex.

  31. “Here’s what will be published: Pretty much everything else, as long as it’s somewhat related to the topic.” – but only if people are saying things you agree with huh?

    • It’s my blog I can do whatever the hell I want with it. Obviously you’re hanging on my every word, but I don’t HAVE to publish your comments.

      • Of course you don’t. But you are definitely showing your lack of aptitude for discussion, and a lack of tolerance for those who aren’t just like you.

        • Riiiight. So by publishing your comments and responding to every point that you have raised, I’m somehow demonstrating a “lack of tolerance” and “lack of aptitude for discussion”. That’s funny – most people would say that demonstrates tolerance towards different views.

          You have had plenty of opportunity to have your say, and I think I’ve been very fair. I’m not going to publish any more of your comments. You’re free to go and whinge somewhere else about how unreasonable I am.

        • Dude doesn’t like the fact we are not talking about dudes. Dude is angry about racism and is projecting onto this subject. Dude getting shut down everywhere he goes. Dude has no idea what this subject is about and can only support his non-existent argument with invalid conjecture. Dude needs a long sleep and possibly therapy. Fuck Off Dude.

          • I’m baffled by his lack of awareness. He doesn’t see that saying “I’m on your side” (maybe I didn’t publish that one, it could have been the one that said I was a pseudo-intellectual and too aggressive) while also saying that we are all wrong and don’t know what we’re talking about, just proves that he’s out of his depth in this discussion.

          • ahm Sandra? Did you forget to take your medicine today?
            You seem to be under the misaprehension that you are saying something of benefit to this conversation.
            To be absolutely honest with you, as a woman I am disgusted that you can call yourself one. If you are going to be belligerent then I think that you need therapy.
            I agree with cam and completely believe that feminism has become a misguided disease and is now an excuse for aggression.
            You should not persecute someone for having a different opinion than what you believe is true.
            Shame on you ‘newswithnipples’ your job here is to run a site where these issues are open to discussion, it is not your right to not show comments here, your are essentially ganging up on another person.

            • Um, Cam Gould, your IP address is showing. Nice try. But you did get another comment published. Only so I can laugh at you.

              • It did sound like a pretty damn obvious sock-puppet. ‘Your JOB here?’ ‘Not your RIGHT’?
                HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
                See here, my good NWN, it’s your job to pander to the derailing and concern-trolling opinions of any random stranger that happens along. Snap to it! And get me a cup of tea while you are at it!

                • Well, I am already in the kitchen…

                  I probably published too many of his comments, but I really enjoyed seeing him get so indignant and whiney and stamp his little foot because I didn’t agree with him.

                  • Have you noticed (of course you must have) that it’s usually the people with repellent opinions that always equate disagreement with censorship?
                    You aren’t entirely convinced by my argument/opinion/logic/logical fallacy = you are trying to Shut Down Debate/Censor Opinions/Promote Lefty Groupthink/Make Women Hate Men!

  32. That’s such a strange thing to say in light of the universal solidarity that has surrounded India..and for good reason..I am unsure if you are on the same page Cam..

  33. Hello, I’m new to your blog. A while ago I complained to The Age about the use of passive English when reporting sex crimes. I got no response (didn’t expect one) and am so glad there are other people who have noticed the same bias (or recognise the bias when it’s brought to their attention).

    Newspapers seem quite vulnerable at the moment, as a business model, and should be interested in any ideas that might increase their readership. The Age has already included a feminist-lite section – Daily Life. The Age launched a new layout that described Daily Life as ‘Women’s Perspective’. The Age changed it back to Daily Life after an outcry. They might also be open to an amendment to their style guide. Do you think a change.org petition about a change to this reporting bias/style guide (linking to this blog post) would be a good idea? Fairfax could use it to generate publicity.

    • I don’t know – I have change.org petition fatigue.

      I dislike Daily Life so much. Apparently we’re supposed to celebrate the fact that they pay female writers. It’s Fairfax! So they bloody well should pay their writers! And they rarely promote the articles about equality and relationships elsewhere on the website – like they do with all the other sections – so female readers are just having these discussions with each other because apparently there’s no need for men to be aware of these things. And they call it “news for women” as though our lady brains can’t deal with politics and business and sports and general news. And finally, there’s just too much celebrity shit that should be in the entertainment section.

      Nosexjustskill, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  34. Pingback: Rape culture: we’re living in it « The Daily Blog

  35. Actually I live in the same household as Cam Gould. My name is Leah Naulls. He is the person who alerted me to this ridiculous ‘conversation’. I am a real person with real opinions, sorry to burst your bubble.

    • Perhaps. But you’ve used the same words as Cam Gould so I’m inclined to believe that you’re the same person.

      I published 12 of Cam Gould’s comments and then discussed every single one. He has had his say and demonstrated that he is most likely a concern troll.

      As for your comment about my rights and my job here, well, let’s put it this way, I am still laughing at you. It is not my right to not show comments here? You are an idiot. Seriously.

      • Also, Leah/Cam Gould, given the short amount of time between Cam Gould sending in a comment and you sending in a comment, you can’t possibly have read the post, so I’m more inclined to believe that you’re Cam Gould.

      • No Kim. You are the idiot. You are an ignorant extremist. How dare you call Leah an idiot for her beliefs. I know her well enough to know that by saying “It is not my right to not show comments here?” she is referring to the fact that you pretend to be a legitimate journalist. And hence shouldn’t be censoring people. It may not have been said clearly, but the point still remains.

        “I am still laughing at you” – you really are a lowlife scumbag, with terrible ‘debating’ skills. You are doing damage to the standing of women in our society. Seriously, shame on you. I know what you are, and you and I both know that you have been called out for shoddy writing full of ridiculous aspersions and assumptions. You know that I cannot respect you, and that makes you furious.

        And stop pretending. You didn’t ‘discuss’ anything I posted. You simply wrote it off as irrelevant because you don’t agree. I pointed out multiple REAL flaws in your writing, and you even refused to publish some of the more pithy posts of mine.

        • Pot calling the kettle black, Cam. Yes, I called Leah/you an idiot. In your comments here – the published ones and the 10 I didn’t publish – you’ve called me a lowlife scumbag, an ignorant extremist, dishonest, irrational, unintelligent, a sexist pig, a pseudo-intellectual, and too aggressive. Idiot pales in comparison to all of that, don’t you think? And that comment from Leah/you about what my job is and that I have no right to not pubish your comments was idiotic.

          I am not a journalist. I was a journalist for 10 years. I found it a deeply unsatisfying career and left – pretty much the reason many journalists are leaving the industry.

          And this is not a news blog. It’s opinion. OPINION. Which is why that comment from Leah/you is even more idiotic. (Also, if you believe that news websites have to pubish every comment, or even comments that disagree with the article, then you’re more naive than I thought.)

          Now, if you knew anything at all about feminism, you’d know that the issues being discussed here are not “extremist”, but are very mainstream. It’s Feminism 101, for fuck’s sake.

          Also, you should look up the definitions of “reactionary” and “censorship” and “pithy”, because they are not what you think they are. I’m embarrassed for you.

          If you hate it so much here, why do you keep reading everything we do? Why do you keep sending in comments?

          • Ok, so Cam has sent in another three comments this morning, as well as the three late last night and the twenty-something over the last two days. I’m not going to publish any more comments from him, not even for humour value, because he has nothing new to say. Apparently I’m doing feminism wrong.

            Also, Cam wants me to know that he has lots of female friends who all think he is right. Of course he does. And that he’s justified in calling me all those names because of something or other that doesn’t really make sense. And that he’s smarter than me because he “knew” that I wouldn’t publish his comments. And I don’t publish his comments because I’m pathetic and gutless. What a complete tool. Oops, I mean, “entrepreneur” in an “ironic” Pink Floyd t-shirt.

  36. Ponder Stibbons

    Perhaps Cam and Leah should read “Against Our Will” by Susan Brownmiller. I insisted my son read it when he turned 16; so he might have some small clue as to how the other half lives. I still don’t get it more than half the time myself.

    Perhaps someone might like to update me to a current century version of Brownmillers book that I can show my grandkids in a few years.

    • I always recommend Emily Maguire’s Princesses and Pornstars.

      Ponder Stibbons, welcome to the News with Nipples.

    • “I insisted my son read it when he turned 16; so he might have some small clue as to how the other half lives” – and what did you read to find out how the other “other half” lives (seeing as though you think this is a ‘sides’ type issue).

      I am not going to speak for Leah. But I myself am very informed about these issues, and have been past where the writer of this blog article is to a more inclusive and informed place.

      • Ah yes, that place where you come onto a blog post about a topic you know nothing about, and tell everyone else they are wrong. You’re right. We should ALL try to get to that “inclusive and informed place”.

  37. Hi NWN. Great post, you’ve neatly captured what is a troubling tendency not only to click bait to base attitudes but also to create and then exploit a climate of fear. As a guy I am appalled at the victim shaming mentality that goes on and that society just seems to baulk at telling us guys ‘just don’t do it’.

    Funny thing is tho by focusing on blaming the women for what they did/didn’t do, were wearing, time of day etc they’re they don’t seem to realise that they are actually also saying that that women need to do these things because guys just can’t control themselves. If more guys realised that’s what this victim shaming culture was saying about men maybe things might start to change?

  38. Pingback: On International Women’s Day… — Over Cups of Coffee

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  40. Pingback: How much do we need to know? | the news with nipples

  41. I recently had to analyse this article for linguistics and may i say that i really disagree with it.
    Whilst I agree that sexual violence against women is reported differently to other crimes, I struggle to believe it is for the reasons suggested on the blog. The women are made the subject, not to blame the women, but to give the more respected noun importance. If a journalist used the headline “Gang of Men Rape Woman After Asking for Directions”, the woman is literally made the “object” of the sentence. Tucking her in the middle of the sentence and making it seem like it the rape is gossip and the woman’s wellbeing is of no importance. I truly believe that if violence against women was reported the same way as other crimes then there would be havoc in the newswithnipples blog!

    • Hi Molly, welcome to the News with Nipples. The problem with your argument is that it doesn’t explain why violence against women is reported differently to violence against men. When a man is the victim, the perpetrator is right at the start of the story, with police saying “we’re gonna catch you”. When a woman is the victim, it’s often not until the third paragraph that there’s any suggestion that someone assaulted the woman. And police tell women to “be scared”. The effect of this is that violence against women is presented as something that just “happens” to women, rather than something that some men do to women. And it leads to reporting of what she was wearing, if she was drinking, had she been talking to him earlier in the night, was it a wild party – all of which are essentially to say that she somehow provoked the attack.

      • Hi. Since reading this post I’ve been taking a second look at the way the sorts of things are reported and indeed it is as you say in your post.

        Found an interesting one today tho.

        http://m.theage.com.au/victoria/women-sought-over-vicious-railway-attack-20130320-2ge7e.html

        Some of women involved do get a mention up front, as the alledged perpetrators.

        • Oh yes, journos love a “girls gone wild” (not the exploitative soft porn type) story.

          Once you notice these things, it’s hard to un-notice them, isn’t it? Almost everywhere I look, I see journalism that is failing in its most basic purpose: to provide information about something new that has happened. The lack of information provided in each story is astounding. On AM this morning, Tony Eastley was talking to a journo (forget who it was) about the federal apology for forced adoptions, and the SECOND question was how it would be crass for a leadership spill on the same day as the apology. THE SECOND QUESTION. The rest of the interview (and don’t get me started on journalists interviewing journalists!) was about Rudd and unnamed MPs on Rudd’s side. Journalists really need to ask themselves why they grant anonymity to MPs and who benefits from it. So much for a story about the apology for forced adoptions and the $6.5 million the Government is spending on services.

  42. Pingback: When will women stop being told to be more careful? | A life unexamined

  43. Terrific & important piece. Every little bit helps. Congrats, and thanks.

  44. This is a brilliant, eye-opening article. Been enjoying this blog for about a year or so and this is the best post so far.

    Also, I have a year 11 politics project on female rights in the west compared to countries like Saudi Arabia and India, any suggested readings?

  45. Coming in at comment 130 or so, there’s not much to add except to mention another related irritation I have with the reporting of violence against women. The media has a double standard in reporting violence against attractive women, as opposed to plain women. Attractive female victims become almost celebritised, with virtually every report being little more than an excuse to publish a beautiful female face – and their photos routinely dominate the page space. Plainer female murder/rape victims not only get a fraction of media coverage compared to attractive victims, their photos are either left out altogether, or appear as a blurry postage stamp inset.

    • Oh, absolutely. Journos LOVE a missing/dead pretty woman. If she has done any modelling, you can almost see the news boners. It’s pretty gross that they go “HOT CHICK HOT CHICK CHECK OUT THE HOT CHICK” in a story about a woman who is missing or has been killed.

      Don’t know if you’ve read It’s Not News, It’s FARK: How Mass Media Tries to Pass off Crap as News by Fark.com. founder Drew Curtis. There’s a whole chapter on how much the MSM loves missing white girls.

      (Sorry for the late publish – I’ve been sick in bed since Friday.)

  46. Pingback: What the fuck, Australia? | the news with nipples

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  48. Pingback: [Daily Blog reposts] Rape culture: we’re living in it | Ideologically Impure

  49. Pingback: How embarrassing for professional journalists | the news with nipples

  50. Pingback: This is not how male violence against women should be reported | the news with nipples

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