The Story is the Survivor: Reporting on Sexual Assault

“The story is about the survivor—not the journalist,” said guest speaker Claudia Garcia-Rojas at a Women’s eNews event last week on best practices in reporting on rape and sexual violence.

Garcia-Rojas shared facts and skills on sensitive reporting with a roomful of activists and journalists (who were almost exclusively female), as well as tips on how to avoid victim-blaming narratives. 

“We commonly say that a woman ‘was raped,’” said Garcia-Rojas. “But the use of passive tense in this way does two things: first, it makes the rapist invisible; second, it fails to make explicit that there was a person responsible for sexually assaulting the victim.”

Much of her presentation centered on the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women’s toolkit for local and national journalists to better media coverage, which features the Dart Center’s tip sheet Reporting on Sexual Violence and our tip sheets “How News is ‘Framed'" and "The Effects of News "Frames'".

In addition to suggestions for how to use language and framing respectfully, Garcia-Rojas gave tips on how to make sources comfortable during an interview, and how to use statistics effectively in reporting. Click here for the comprehensive toolkit.

Women’s eNews also shared a case study on how reporting on domestic violence often misses women's voices and skews the story behind gender-based violence: