How are rape victims portrayed in contemporary UK print press? A content analysis of daily national newspaper articles using social representations theory

Bobotis, Michail (2010) How are rape victims portrayed in contemporary UK print press? A content analysis of daily national newspaper articles using social representations theory. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    The overall aim of the present study is to critically examine the presentation of rape victims within contemporary UK print press using social representations theory (Moscovici, 1973; 1984; 1988). Previous research (Bourke, 2007; Anastasio and Costa, 2004; Murray et al., 2005; Barnett, 2008) has shown that rape cases are dealt with in a biased way by the media with the focus being put on sensationalising the crime and putting affected individuals, particularly women, in an unfavourable light. As a result, due to media influenced public opinion, rape victims feel stigmatised, isolated and discouraged from reporting rape. Types of rape vary regarding of who was the offender - a stranger, an acquaintance, a group, or a partner (Web4Health, 2008). The present study focuses on the rape of women by men. The study examines whether the press presents rape victims in terms of 'rape myths' that still have a considerable influence on the way they are treated by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, it will explain the role of media in the process of generating, circulating and maintaining (or changing) certain ideas about rape victims, while pointing to the importance of the link between media and rape victims' situation in the criminal justice context. The hypothesis is that the majority of articles will present rape victims in a negative light, with 'rape myths' continuing to be reinforced and victims being partially or entirely blamed for the crime. In order to analyse verbal as well as visual study sample, a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of randomly selected articles published in two quality and two popular UK daily national newspapers (online, January 2005 – December 2009) was applied. The material was identified, categorised and its diverse aspects interpreted in connection with the study's aims using a special coding frame. The following dominant 'rape myths' could be established. Myth 1: policy and legislation in relation to the treatment of rape is ineffective; myth 2: the 'naïve', innocent victim; myth 3: the provoking, culpable, deserving female victim, myth 4: most women don't know their attacker; myth 5: women 'crying' for rape as a form of revenge; myth 6: prevention advice aimed at women is misleading/based on reinforcing restrictions on their behaviour. Results of the quantitative and qualitative content analysis investigating 'rape myths'; patterns, ideas, frequency of their occurrence and the manner in which they were portrayed support the hypothesis. Regarding myth 1, 33.7 % of articles contained 'misconceptions' about rape within the criminal justice system; myth 2: 24.4 % of articles showed that victims tended to be viewed as naïve and innocent, thus as 'undeserving'; myth 3: 16% of articles suggested that victims contribute to their victimisation, thus they are 'deserving'; myth 4: 15.2% of articles revealed that most victims do not know their offender; myth 5: 5.3% of articles portrayed women as telling lies about being raped in order to gain benefits from an accusation; myth 6: 5.2% suggested that women should behave in a certain way to prevent rape. Concluding, UK daily national newspapers tended to portray rape victims in terms of 'rape myths, simplistic, false beliefs about rape, and continue to promote the idea of 'victim blame' to a great extent.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:49
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:16

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