Pinning down “rape” in the media

By , December 23, 2010 4:39 pm

The rape accusations leveled against Julian Assange have  meant the media has lately been discussing what it means to be raped, and – more broadly- how is rape defined? I must admit, I’m having difficulty finding exact information on what Assange has been accused of. I know two women allege he committed some sexual misconduct, but some places I’ve read it wasn’t (legally) rape, while most news sources are nevertheless calling it such. (If anyone has links to better information, I’d appreciate ’em. Thanks!) Regardless of Assange’s guilt or innocence, though, the news coverage sparked an interesting conversation between a friend and I, about the difficulties of presenting objective coverage around rape accusations.

Specifically, it made me think about the differences between discussing a crime left theft – or even murder – in comparison to discussing rape.

Because when you’re talking about those crimes, there’s (usually) no debate about whether or not a crime occurred, it’s just an issue of who did it. Most news coverage you hear around non-sexual crimes don’t debate that, say, Alice was robbed or Bob was murdered. Every so often there will be a story of arson for insurance money, sure, but those are the exception, not the rule.

Not so with rape.

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