The Sexist

Sexual Assault or Lovers’ Quarrel?

Yesterday, I wrote about the Washington Examiner's characterization of Miss D.C. 2009 Jen Corey's sexual assault as a "bar fight." Actually, a man sexually assaulted Corey, and she defended herself physically in order to protect herself from further attack.

Today, Amanda Marcotte filed a helpful post identifying how media outlets routinely describe assaults against women in collaborative terms, as "fights" or "altercations" between people. She writes:

Do not be fooled, people! In the mainstream media, “fights”, “conflicts”, or “altercations” between men and women they’ve had relationships with are rarely fights, conflicts, or altercations. If you read down, you find that this woman was no more engaged in an “altercation” than Wile E. Coyote is with the piano that squishes him.

Marcotte points to press coverage of an assault that David Vitter aide Brent Furer allegedly committed against his ex-girlfriend. Reporters characterized the assault as a "knife-wielding altercation." Here's the actual story: "Furer was accused of holding his ex-girlfriend against her will for 90 minutes, threatening to kill her, placing his hand over her mouth, and cutting her in the hand and neck."

In Corey's case, the Washington Examiner not only characterized her assault in terms of a collaborative "bar fight," but went on to focuse most of its attention on Corey as the aggressor. In one story, the paper described Corey's self-defense as "slam[ming] a man (if provoked)," and referred to her choice to defend herself as a "controversial decision." The nature of the "provocation"—sexual assault—does not warrant a mention in the story. When a man kidnaps a woman at knife-point, that's an "altercation"; when a woman fights back against an assault, it's a "controversial decision."

  • Amadi

    This is what passes as journalistic "fairness" today. Words which might presuppose guilt on the part of the aggressor are thrown out entirely, even when it's clear that there was one aggressor (or worse more than one, as in Corey's case) and one victim, even when only one party is arrested. They're so afraid that a knife-wielding jackass who holds his girlfriend hostage is going to sue them if they say that he assaulted her, or even allegedly assaulted her, they won't use the word at all.

    Media is doing a very fine job of preserving, reinforcing and furthering violence in our culture.

  • Bihac

    Lets not forget MIX 107.3's Tommy McFly coming in on the side of the Examiner on Twitter. Why does this guy still have a job?

  • upk

    Bad example. Wile E. Coyote always initiated the violence.

  • Em

    Thought you might want to see an international example, I came across this today and thought of this piece. Here, a physical assualt is "a result of a feud"...I feel like they really downplay the fact that this woman was assaulted.