Moving the media towards prevention
Here is a guest blog by Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick, co-hosts of the Ending Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA) Web Conference Series that PreventConnect is co-sponsoring with Ms. Foundation for Women.
The second Ms Foundation for Women Web Conference featured the Berkeley Media Studies Group and Frameworks Institute discussing their research about working with the media to end child sexual abuse. The messages of the two presentations intertwined eloquently, bringing fresh insights to media work.
First, Pamela Mejia described the BMSG research, pointing to the dramatic change in reporting after the Penn State Tragedy. Pamela first offered an excellent summary of their two recent reports, Case by Case: News Coverage of Child Sexual Abuse and Breaking News: Early Coverage of Penn State. The research highlighted a shift in media reporting of Penn State towards institutional (rather than individual) responsibility. Pamela also discussed the important role that advocates played in the days immediately following the arrest of Sandusky. BMSG recommendations included:
- monitoring the media,
- piggybacking on breaking news,
- writing opinions,
- developing relationships with journalist and
- being very intentional about the language used.
Moira O’Neil followed with an overview of the public perception research the Frameworks Institute has done with Prevent Child Abuse America (report link) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (report link). Moira discussed findings in both their studies and described their process of finding the right frame to change the public’s understanding of the child sexual abuse. Key pre-existing frames to overcome include:
- the idea of the family bubble that reinforces individual parents and child’s responsibilities to protect themselves from harm and
- the belief many have that the harm from adverse childhood experiences is not all that bad because of the sense that “what didn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
She noted that people tend to think our media messages are going into an open mind, but offered a helpful reminder that the mind is more like a swamp and it is easy to get stuck and hard to get through. She offered the following example: although most people know CSA is a problem perpetrated by those they know, when they get to solutions they retreat to stranger thinking. Finally, Moira echoed BMSG recommendations on the importance of focusing the media on the role of communities in prevention and the social causes of child sexual abuse rather than relegating the response to individual choices.
Our closing message: while the media is powerful, it can also be a powerful tool for solutions. We need to build a bigger choir of voices singing the stories of solutions. The media may now be more receptive to stories of organizational and community solutions. Throughout the web conference, people asked for topics that we plan to cover in upcoming web conferences including: sexual health, preventing the perpetration of child sexual abuse, engaging voices of experience (survivors, families and others affected by sexual abuse) and dominant norms in the media in pornography. We are using the media in our work to end child sexual abuse, learn from those who have experienced sexual abuse, and help highlight new solutions.
Click here to download the slides from this web conference and view the full presentation online.
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