Saturday, October 27, 2012

Victim-blaming in journalism?

Reproduction: dictionary definition of "alleged"
Dictionary.com definition for ‘alleged’
Steve Buttry makes an interesting argument about the phrase, “alleged victim,” when reporting on a crime: “It’s a blame-the-victim term we should banish forever from the journalism lexicon.”

Victim-blaming is an important issue for me, because I’ve witnessed the backlash against me and another person when we wrote about being targeted by bullying.

Buttry was writing about how journalists cover cases of sexual abuse: according to him, almost the only type of stories where “alleged victim” appears. Again, this issue matters to me, having been “groomed” and narrowly escaped abuse by a Catholic priest.

With both sexual abuse and bullying there are people who, when confronted by charges against a person they respect, will react to the accuser with a viciousness that rivals the alleged abuse. I don’t want to be part of that.

This issue is also important to me because of my occupation.

As an editor on the autism spectrum I strive to use language respectfully. The journalist’s use of language can similarly make a powerful impression in matters of sexual abuse and bullying, perceptions of guilt or innocence.

Buttry’s post and comments left in response to it create an interesting dialogue about the impression of “alleged victim” and what words should be used instead.


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