Teaching Student Journalist to Write About Sexual Violence

Research Stage: Analysis

Much has been written about the harmful ways that journalists write about sexual assault. From their choice of framing devices to their choice of language, journalists have the power to shape the way the public understands crime. Unfortunately, many journalists choose to write about sexual violence in a way that renders perpetrators invisible while blaming and stigmatizing victims. For instance, passive voice removes the perpetrator as the agent of the act, implying that what happened to the victim was committed by no one.

For the current study, we developed a writing intervention designed to teach student journalists how to better write about crime. The intervention used previously published articles from the newspaper the journalists wrote for to demonstrate where they had used harmful language and where they could make changes. We then collected articles published between August 2015 and May 2019 and coded them for themes and rhetorical devises. The goal was to establish a trend line before (August 2015-Decemeber 2018) and after (January 2019-May 2019) the intervention to determine whether the intervention reduced the number of victim-blaming and perpetrator-absolving rhetorical devices.

Caitlin S. Ducate
Caitlin S. Ducate
PhD Candidate of Criminal Justice

I am a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University. My research interests include how cognitive schemata such as identity influence criminal offending behavior.