The media influences our perception of current events, the products we buy, our political beliefs, and almost every aspect of the American life. It is the most powerful social and cultural influence that comes with the responsibility to create positive changes in our society. And yet, it promotes rape culture and the belief that a victim of rape must have been “asking for it” by the clothes she wears or how much she had to drink.
Take for example the nation-wide gang rape case in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012 that caused millions of Americans to take a stand against an unjust ruling that had to be re-examined. A sixteen-year-old girl was traumatized after multiple teenagers videotaped and photographed themselves raping her unconscious body. Instead of seeing the case for what it was, a despicable unjust act by repulsive teenagers, the media decided to feel empathy for the boys. One reporter went as far as to say it was a tragedy to see their chances of being football stars taken away. The media did highlights on their troubled childhood, and begged for sympathy from the viewers as one of the rapists was reunited with their lost father. It is stories like this where the media tries to create sympathy for rapists and explanations for their acts that create the idea that the victim is to blame.
Another example is the 2010 Cleveland, Texas case in which twenty men repeatedly raped an eleven-year-old girl. That sentence alone should make any reader cringe at the thought. However, The New York Times decided to take a different approach. They said that the victim did not dress like a “normal” eleven-year-old and that she would wear tight and revealing clothing. They also expressed empathy and concern for the men that were involved in the raping. This is just another example out of many that show the media defending rapists and promoting the idea that what women wear is an excuse for why they were raped.
Even the positive messages from the media that promote preventing rape are focused on telling women to not wear too tight of clothing, and to watch how much one drinks. While their intentions may be good they are promoting rape culture. We live in a world of opportunities, brilliant technology, and advance thinking and yet we have to teach women how to not be easy targets for rape. We should be focusing on teaching men to not rape. What women do, wear, say, or consume should not be a factor in any rape case or any prevention information. We need to eliminate the idea that the victim has any responsibility, and teach our society that rapists do not have any excuses for their actions. The media can be a powerful tool for doing good, but it can also create horrible notions that give power to rapists.