Session: Breaking the Silence? Media Conversations about Sexual Violence in the #Metoo Era (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

58 Breaking the Silence? Media Conversations about Sexual Violence in the #Metoo Era

Friday, January 17, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Liberty Ballroom J, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Violence against Women and Children (VAWC)
Symposium Organizer:
Millan A. AbiNader, MSW, Boston University
Background and Purpose: The advent of the #metoo and #timesup movements saw a heightened media coverage of sexual violence previously unknown in the United States. Despite the increased public awareness of sexual violence, which has historically been a topic that is avoided and silenced, it is unclear if this new dialogue appropriately reflects recent advancements in gender equality, survivor empowerment, positive consent, and laws and protections for survivors of sexual violence. This symposium will present research on the media responses to issues related to sexual violence, such as the importance of member-checking, support through social networking, and media characterizations of sexual violence.

Methods & Results: This symposium presents three studies that examine recent media coverage of sexual violence. The first is an autoethnography of two sexual trauma researchers' experiences with engaging with international media. Through this exchange, the researchers experienced silencing and triggering in regards to incomplete reporting of survivor's experiences. The autoethnography is supported by a brief review of qualitative research on sexual trauma and the lack of use of member-checking before reporting results. The second study utilized a qualitative thematic analysis methodology to analyze data from a social networking site called Reddit. Two authors independently coded responses from a top comment surrounding topic of why survivors chose not to report their experiences of sexual violence. Finally, the third study compared the characterization of the accuser, the nominee, and the sexual violence in newspaper headlines during Justice Thomas' confirmation hearing to those during Justice Kavanaugh's using a mixed methods approach. While less victim-blaming and minimization of sexual violence was seen in the 2018 headlines, newspapers continued to avoid naming the sexual violence and the characterizations of the nominee, accuser, and violence became depersonalized in 2018, focusing on politics rather than the people and issues at hand.

Conclusions and implications: Media coverage of sexual violence has the potential to influence how communities discuss and respond to sexual violence as well as influence survivors' decisions regarding help-seeking. In addition, lack of member-checking in media and academic coverage of sexual trauma research can create triggering and silencing for survivors of sexual trauma. It is therefore critical for us to understand media's coverage of sexual violence and its potential influence on communities.

* noted as presenting author
These Are Not My Words: The Importance of Member-Checking When Qualitatively Researching the Experiences of Survivors of Sexual Trauma
December Maxwell, MSW, University of Texas at Arlington; Johanna Thomas, PhD, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
#Butnothingwasdone: Perceived Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault in #Metoo Times
Sarah Robinson, LMSW, University of Texas at Arlington; December Maxwell, MSW, University of Texas at Arlington
Talking (or not) about Sexual Violence: Newspaper Coverage of Justices Thomas' and Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearings
Millan A. AbiNader, MSW, Boston University; Kelsi Carolan, MSW, Boston University; Margaret M.C. Thomas, MSW, Boston University
See more of: Symposia