The right way to write about sexual assault

As we all know, sexual assault in the entertainment industry is nothing new. From Kesha to the multiple allegations against Heathcliff Berru, it seems like there is a new sexual assault story to report on every week.

So, this raises a very important question: How do journalists report on these stories? How does one get out all the facts while remaining sensitive to the victim?

Luckily, we have people like Jes Skolnik. Jes is the managing editor at Bandcamp and has words appear in multiple publications including Pitchfork and Flavorwire. A few weeks ago, Jes wrote some guidelines for journalists reporting on sexual assault.

Some of the most important points?

1. Be careful with your language. If there is alleged violence, do not refer to it using the same terminology as consensual sex. This reinforces the pervasive social myth that sexual violence is “sex gone wrong” rather than specific and contextualized violence.

4. FACT CHECK EVERYTHING. SCRUTINIZE IT TO THE MOST INCREDIBLY DILIGENT DEGREE. DO NOT RUSH TO PUBLISH IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY AVOID IT. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. (If you have legal resources, either through or outside your publication, use them!)

Something as sensitive as reporting on sexual assault needed a list of guidelines like this. It can be easy for journalists to focus most on the story they are putting out, but it’s important to remember that not only are you reporting on the news, you’re reporting on real people with real feelings.

The entire list of guidelines can be found here.

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The right way to write about sexual assault

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