Media coverage of child sexual abuse

Ms. Foundation for Women, press release:

The report, “Breaking News on Child Sexual Abuse: Early Coverage of Penn State,” found that less than one-third of the general news coverage of the Jerry Sandusky case included a mention of a potential solution or policy measure to reduce or prevent future abuse.

 “Media coverage increases the visibility of societal problems and fuels our nation’s collective response. Coverage that is absent of solutions denies us an opportunity to prevent child sexual abuse for the one in four girls and one in six boys who are sexually abused each year,” said Rahman.

Among the articles mentioning solutions, the most frequently cited ones focused on actions after the abuse had been committed, such as reporting abuse, rather than measures intended to prevent abuse from occurring.

“The report highlights that prevention continues to get short shrift in news coverage of child sexual abuse,” BMSG Director Lori Dorfman said. “Journalists and advocates can work together on stories like this to help the public and policymakers understand the need for prevention policies.”

Not so surprising unfortunately. The media's goal is to secure readers and thus revenue, not work for the greater good. It has been frustrating to see the reaction to the Penn State scandal revolve around things such as universal mandatory reporting and removing the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. While it is not bad to investigate such measures it does reek of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Where is the focus on prevention? How can we push this issue forward?