Next up on my guest Post roster for SAAM is NCthomas of Thinky Thoughts. She answered my call for guest bloggers, and I was instantly impressed with her writing. I’m glad I have the opportunity to share her thoughts with you all! Please stop by her blog and check out some of her other wonderful writing.
Sex Sells. Sex Crimes? The Media Decides
It feels like a daily occurrence that we hear or read about another sexual attack being committed. It can be from the national outrage of TV personas abusing their position of power, fame, fortune and popularity to the live rape of a woman on social media How the British media tackle the subject is a mixed bag.
The first story mentioned above is about the once so-called “British national treasure” (I guarantee not any longer) Jimmy Savile. The crimes Savile committed are wholly unbelievable and it is hard for anyone to fully take in the scope of what this man did to children, women and even, it has been claimed, corpses. I know what you are thinking when you look at photos or clips of the man; you’re thinking, “Are you kidding me Brits? You guys were shocked at finding this out? I mean, look at him!” I know what you’re saying. In fact, I agree. You only have to watch clips of Savile and how he conducted himself around young teenage women to know this man’s behaviour was not okay. In fact, it was wholly fucking unacceptable. Like this (please beware, that for some this may be distressing) clip for example
I was born later than the generation who revered Savile and so I really can’t comment on what people were thinking when they saw this kind of behaviour, or if they even noticed. What I can tell you though is that, as a nation, we were shocked and appalled by the magnitude of his crimes (which finally came to light in 2012), and not just that, but the institutions who helped cover for him.
When the story was finally released and it was out that Savile was a sexual predator, the reporting media, both print and television, joined us in our shock and disgust. A question arose: “How did this man get away with this for so long?” And that’s when the real horrible truth emerged. Not only was this man connected to very powerful people, he was also protected by powerful organisations: media organisations.
Dame Janet Smith, a UK judge, conducted an investigation into Savile and the BBC. And the shit hit the fan. Turns out that rumours had been around for years about Savile and what he was doing. It was quoted that victims never came forward with allegations due to an “atmosphere of fear” at the BBC where Savile’s career was most prominent, hosting iconic shows such as Top of the Pops where the live audience was predominantly female teenagers, or Jim’ll Fix It, a show where predominantly young children wrote in for Savile to bring them to the show and make their dream come true. These shows provided access and Smith’s report quoted many who worked for the BBC at a time when Savile did as hearing something about Savile and his actions.
- Radio and tv presenter Terry Wogan was approached by a journalist who asked him when Savile was going to be exposed. Wogan’s response to the journalist was that was her job. This journalist, Jean Rook, was known for her outspoken and ballsy reporting. She died in 1991. The allegations against Savile were finally made public was in 2012, Savile died in 2011. (For a timeline into the events please click here )
- Roger Cook, an investigative journalist, received anonymous tips that Savile was abusing patients at a hospital he volunteered at. This was in 1980.
- TV presenter and journalist Andrew Fleet said Savile and his exploits made their way around the rumour mill of Fleet Street (for non-Brits this is the Mecca of the British media and a lot of the time we call the press Fleet Street). In Smith’s report it is stated that these rumours were seen as amusing.
This is merely three examples of people who work(ed) in the media who seemed to know something about these horrific crimes. There are many more along with prolific celebrities (such as the founder of Childline, a service where children who suffer abuse can call in for support and help,) who were aware of what was going on. The report can be found in full here.
To work in the media is a competitive and, understandably, soul-destroying business. The constant search for that big headline at times can be fruitless, which can lead to utter shite like this , to the illuminating , to just plain lies . So why is it when many were given the opportunity for a big story they never took it and ran with it? I understand the so-called “atmosphere of fear” but all that means is everyone valued their career over doing what was right. That as long as they got a pay-check it didn’t matter that children were being sexually molested.
Obviously the Savile case is a very unique one, and hopefully we never hear of the likes again. So, let’s put that to the side. Let’s, for arguments sake, all agree that because of it’s uniqueness that it isn’t fair to write off the media’s handlings of uncovering sexual assault of any kind. Deal?
Okay. So let’s look at the reporting of other rapes. Less high profile, shall we say. I refer to the second link in my opening paragraph in which a woman was subjected to a gang rape that went on for hours and was streamed on Facebook Live. Did you notice whilst reading the article that in the final of the three bullet points at the beginning and the two final paragraphs of the article that the story mentions other crimes committed on Facebook Live, crimes wholly unconnected and not even under the same category as the one that is being reported upon? The finger swerves to social media and makes it share the blame in this horrendous act. The article has the tone that if it weren’t for Facebook Live then it wouldn’t have happened.
Then there is the coverage of the Stanford rapist in which a female university student was raped by a fellow student. The assailant, Brock Turner, was, quite rightly, vilified by most but there were some, including Brock Turner who chose to blame alcohol and the present culture we live in on his sickening act. Even so, due to the worldwide outrage at this story, the media were hard-pressed to cover this in any other way except for the revealing of a rapist. But there’s always one who can’t help themselves, this article’s headline is quite something and though the article does not actually state that it believes its own headlines, it chooses to go into the semantics of what legally is constituted as rape. It’s message reads as this: “Here’s what to say when this is all over.”
So far I have given examples of rape coverage in the media in which the media reports the actual event. Unfortunately many rape cases are never reported. The latest statistics for England and Wales are that an average of 11 rapes occur an hour and only 15% ever get reported. (At the time of writing this piece, I could not find statistics for Scotland or Northern Ireland.) The reasons behind not reporting these crimes can range from shame to lack of faith in the justice system. But realistically, how do you expect women to report when tv adverts like this are broadcasted on your screens? Why on Earth are messages like this directed to the perpetrator? It’s basically saying “remember not to rape, that’s illegal.” Do we do the same for murder? No! Of course we fucking don’t! It’s plainly obvious – don’t murder! And it’s that simple for rape. It’s that simple everyone. Also, where is the victims voice? If anything, that advert should be the encouragement of victims coming forward and reporting the crime.
Looking at this so far it’s hard to pinpoint what it is that qualifies the subject of sexual assault worth being reported. Considering the media helped cover Savile’s repugnant acts and adding the factor that many attacks go unreported, its easy to assume they don’t widely report on sexual attacks. Well, no actually, nothing grabs headlines better than a sex crime headline, so long as its high profile of course. I don’t need to provide links, just Google it. It’s extraordinary how many come up, particularly if you select the images tab. Yet, the strangest thing occurred only last week in Britain. What could have been a big story, one to instil outrage and disgust amongst the public, to rally us all together and say “well that ain’t happening,” was unreported.
Let me start from the beginning, in the 2015 budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the man responsible for destroying our economy whilst under the guise of trying to fix it) George Osbourne declared changes to the child tax credit system. For non-Brits the best way I can describe child tax credits is it’s a subsidy for people, with children, on low income. It’s found that child tax credit are received by lone parent families and it can be the deciding factor on whether their family eat for the next fortnight. Osbourne declared he would be capping the child tax credit to a maximum of two children. The only people who would be exempt from this restriction would be those who have had multiple children in one birth and victims of rape. In the circumstances of rape victims they have to prove their ordeal occurred in order to be viable for said tax credits. The act was passed last week, without a parliamentary vote, without coverage from the media, without outrage from the public. As the public rely on the media for such information they can be excused. So where were the media? Could it be that it was done so hush hush that even they missed it? No. One paper reported on it. And in some way that made it worse. Because it made it all the clearer that the press knew exactly what had occurred.
I wish I could come up with a decent conclusion to this blog post. I wish I could give some suggestions or some silver lining to it all. The media have a responsibility to not only inform but in some cases educate. We live in a world where we have to broadcast reminders not to rape; where when sexual assault occurs it’s blamed on alcohol and the stresses of the environment we live in; where if someone is caught joking about sexual harassment it’s branded “locker room talk” and “boys will be boys.” The media have this side covered. All the search for is the sensational story. They don’t really want to change the world. Why change the world when you benefit from the misery in it?
NC Thomas is probably the most boring person you’ll ever meet. She loves reading, writing, wearing pyjamas and staying indoors. On sunny warm days, a rarity in Scotland, she is known to put the central heating on.