The BBC, CNN and Rape Culture

Well what have the past few weeks taught me? Unfortunately that rape culture is alive and kicking; and no, this is not a swipe at horrific ‘UniLad’ and disgusting online rape ‘jokes’ that have exploded onto our timelines and tumblrs. No, this particular rage at rape culture is thrown squarely in the face of our ‘western’ media. I’ll start at home. Last week the BBC, you know the one “to inform, educate and entertain”, and funded by us, the taxpayer, received a new report from the Crown Prosecution detailing how media and public perceptions of false rape reports propagate "dangerous myths" and said the problem was far less common than thought. So what did the BBC do with this information that the media was peddling dangerous lies? It peddled some more. Unlike The Guardian, Huffington Post, and even The Daily Mail, among many others, the BBC went with the headline “False rape claims ‘devastating’ says wrongly accused” and in the second sentence described “just how common the problem is”. COMMON?! ‘Common’ is what they got from a report explaining just how rare false allegations of rape are. Whilst there is no argument that false allegations are surely devastating for the accused and should be treated accordingly, let me reiterate: based on a report detailing the rarity of made up rape allegations, and the effects of saying otherwise, the BBC chose to frame a whole article around how awful and common these allegations are. I truly despair. Luckily, twitter was quickly alight, demanding an apology and correction. I too encouraged others to complain and complain we did, in vast numbers. However, the reply I received was less than encouraging; here is a small excerpt: “I do not agree we misrepresented the study, or published an article that might somehow put people off reporting such serious crimes. However, having considered feedback, I agree we were not clear enough in our wording. For clarity we have changed a word in the second sentence from “common” to “unusual”.” So rather than take on board anything that was said and issue a proper correction and apology they kept the entire article but (thankfully, I guess) changed their false assertion that the problem was ‘common’ to ‘unusual’. Here is a screen shot of the before and after: Thanks BBC, I’m glad you have been taking your recent sex scandals and cover-ups seriously. Over the pond now and to a news story that you probably can’t have missed. This week two young men were found guilty of the rape of a Steubenville teenager. The story goes that a young woman was raped, filmed and humiliated by a number of partygoers, who later posted the footage online, alongside words like ‘dead body’, ‘rape’ etc. Two of these perpetrators were, later found guilty and sentenced to one, and two years respectively. End of story? No. Not only had the small town and police already been accused of trying to hush up the story from the beginning, and extreme victim blaming (she was underage and drinking), before the story exploded online thanks to intrepid bloggers and feminist news sites. But what lies at the bottom of this whole story is the two young men in question were star football players and local town heroes, and generally it was accepted that there was one rule for athletes, another for everyone else. But what was truly sickening about the sentencing of these boys was that upon the verdict being given many media outlets in the US expressed exclusive sympathy for the rapists. ABC aired a glowing profile of one of the now-convicted rapists before the trial, emphasizing his glorious football career. CNN anchor Candy Crowley and correspondent Poppy Harlow, where most of the online rage has now been aimed, talked about how difficult it was to watch the convicted rapists break into tears, their good grades and their promising futures now tarnished. Numerous reports discussed just how drunk the victim was on the night in question, with no reference to whether the perpetrators had also partaken in underage drinking, as if this somehow excuses their behaviour. Well rightly, and I am at least relieved to report, people are angry. I am. This is rape culture in all its repulsive glory. The victim, barely remembered in the media’s stories, has to live with this rape her whole life. How about instead of blaming her for ruining the ‘promising futures’ of these two young men, we blame them for raping in the first place, having no regard for right and wrong, being so proud of their actions that they uploaded them to facebook, twitter etc. to show off to friends and strangers.  The blame for rape should always lay with the rapist and the sooner the media realise this the better off our society will be. “What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea.” - Mahatma Gandhi ACT NOW: To complain to the BBC, please follow this link. Demand an on air apology from CNN with this petition.

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