Recently there has been a large focus on accusations of rape and sexual assault within the media, cases of Michael Le Vell, Bill Roache, Jimmy Savile and of course Ian Watkins being fairly central. The year 2013 saw many ‘celebrities’ being accused of sexual attacks, bringing to the forefront the seriousness and regularity of these types of crimes. Whilst it could be argued that as soon as one individual speaks out, it could lead to more victims feeling brave enough to report what has happened to them, the situation can get tricky once others decide to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and spread lies and false accusations, thus silencing those who may have been telling the truth.
Seeing as both Michael Le Vell and Bill Roache have both been acquitted of the crimes they were originally alleged to have committed, an outcome that was heavily contested through social networks, one must question how difficult it is to have a case of rape and sexual assault sentenced?
Whilst the verdict may have been ‘innocent’ for the Coronation Street stars, one must look into the effect the media will have on those who were thinking of breaking their silence and coming forward with similar cases.
Rape and especially childhood rape, is something that is not often bought to the forefront, but when it is, it is often written in such a professional and clinical way that one can distance themselves from just how vicious and repulsive these attacks are. Whilst most individuals are likely to be empathetic and believe the initial response, which is key to encouraging victims of these cases to come forward and feel safe about ‘telling their story’, just think about the effect that these media cases could have where the victims become the ‘criminals’. Think about the effect this could have on those who are struggling to decide whether to report the crime committed against them or not.
I am not stating that I believe the outcomes of the above cases were incorrect, but merely showing the effect that such cases can have on previous and current victims. The highlighting of rape and sexual assault in the media, has to some extent emphasised how common these attacks are but also, more importantly, that those who are in high class positions are also capable of these crimes.
If I asked you to think of what a rapist looked like, what image would you construe? Standard stereotype probably, not that of a public and well-off individual adored by thousands of fans. As we can see from the recent example of Patrick Rock, who has allegedly been in possession of child abuse images, this shows that those who are in high paid and highly powerful positions are also capable of committing sex crimes. It is possible to note that whilst the cases of rape by these ‘celebrities’ did in fact highlight that someone from any kind of background or culture is capable of these crimes, it has in fact shown how little media coverage rape and sexual assault holds in everyday news. It is often a subject which causes uneasiness and creates ‘moral panics’ and thus is often a ‘story’ in the newspaper individuals tend to skip over.
The cases from last year continuing into this year having held the front page of many broadsheets, are rare. Most cases of rape, unless particularly violent and obscure are unlikely to be this heavily publicised. I would have originally argued that publicising rape is beneficial, helping victims to come forward and making people acknowledge how often this type of crime occurs. I have now come to learn that too much media attention could in fact hinder victims from speaking out based on some recent newspaper responses, but even more so because of the responses on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
From some people’s perspective the individuals in these cases may be seen as liars, but think about what that could do to someone’s life or reputation, and the effect it could have on the ability of future victim to come forward and report what happened to them.
Rape and sexual assault cases have definitely moved more into the public eye these last few years, but does this necessarily benefit the victims or raise concerns with how they will be perceived once their case becomes heavily publicised?
More importantly: Is the media silencing an already ‘taboo’ crime?