Burgeoning Media’s Reporting of Rape Cases in Delhi: Some Reflections and Its Impact

Published date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
Burgeoning Media’s
Reporting of Rape
Cases in Delhi:
Some Reflections
and Its Impact
Vibha Hetu1,2
The research study consisted of three types of respondents: 19 female victims
of rape, 100 common people and 20 media houses. On the basis of interview
of rape victims, characteristics of reported rape cases were drawn. The basis
of reporting had certain distinguishing features which usually entail reiteration
of picking only such analogous cases constituting ‘real rape’ elements in order
to make news very sensational. The reporting had revealed the identity of the
victims. Media personnel had projected the image of the police in a very negative
manner, whereas findings were antagonistic. Police had played an effective role
in the speedy investigation and successful interrogation. The performance of the
court was poor as projected by the media. The reporting had a negative impact
on common people as it created a fear psychosis in the society.
Common people, media, rape myths, reporting, victims
Media’s Role in Reporting Rape Cases
The media are a key arena in which rape is defined. Television reports, newspaper
articles, films, TV programmes based on crimes, and so on help to shape the
understandings of what constitutes as rape, who perpetrates it and why it happens.
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
2(1) 66–89, 2019
2019 National Law
University Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2516606919831496
1 Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), Sonipat, Haryana, India.
2 Centre for Victimology and Psychological Studies (CVPS), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat,
Haryana, India.
Corresponding author:
Vibha Hetu, Flat No. 47, 2nd Floor, Canara Apartment, Sector-13, Rohini, Delhi 110085, India.
E-mail: vibhahetu@gmail.com
Hetu 67
Such representations also influence perceptions about the victim and the likely
consequences of sexual violence. Yet, the media present a highly partial view of
this rape and often promote a series of unhelpful stereotypes and myths.3 Such
representations are informed by dominant social attitudes and external factors
such as police and courtroom procedures. However, media representations are
also framed by internal media dynamics like searching for the sensational and
controversial cases as well as meeting the deadlines.
The news about sexual violence as a format tends to be led by events rather
than issues. The news media’s biasness towards focusing on events rather than
issues with the emphasis placed on intervention and judgement in particular accu-
sations rather than broader social solutions implies sexual violence as a taken-for-
granted fact of life. Since sexual violence often fits within a traditional crime,
much reporting relies on individual court cases also prioritizing the justice system
as the primary avenue of intervention.
Sexually based crimes against children spark a sense of alarm and urgency
among the public. This public response is exacerbated when the media sensation-
alizes cases involving the sexual victimization of children, especially those that
tragically end in a child’s murder.4 But such child sexual victimizations which
result in child’s murder are rare.
In the media, children who are raped are usually cast as inherently ‘innocent’
who are raped, but this can be oppressive as this supports a belief that they are
always vulnerable and likely to be victimized by someone out there.5 Similar criti-
cisms apply to the framing of adult victims/survivors of sexual violence, a cate-
gory usually more ‘up for grabs’ for adult women than for children.6
Portrayal of Rape Cases and Its Impact
Feminist ideas and the experiences of raped women are increasingly articulated.7
Many researchers also point to some excellent coverage of sexual violence issues,
especially by women reporters.8 In fact, specific media reporting was vital to
some campaigns for reform; the media not only responded to feminist critiques
but were sometimes an ally in achieving feminist goals.
3 G. Bohner et al., Rape Myths as Neutralizing Cognitions: Evidence for a Causal Impact of Anti-victim
Attitudes on Men’s Self-reported Likelihood of Raping, 28 Eur. J. Soc. PSychol. 257–268 (1998); R.
Franiuk et al., Prevalence and Effects of Rape Myths in Print Journalism, 14 Viol. AgAinSt WomEn
287–309 (2008).
4 S. Katz-Schiavone et al., Myths and Facts About Sexual Violence: Public Perceptions and
Implications for Prevention, 15(3) J. crim. JuSt. PoPulAr cult. 291–311 (2008).
5 J. Kitzinger, Defending Innocence: Ideologies of Childhood, 28 FEmin. rEV. 77–87 (1988); J. Kitzinger,
Who Are You Kidding? Children, Power and the Struggle Against Sexual Abuse, in conStructing And
rEconStructing childhood (A. JAmES & A. Prout eds., Falmer Press, 165–189 1990).
6 h. BEnEdict, Virgin or VAmP: hoW thE PrESS coVEr SEx crimES (Oxford University Press, 1992);
Supra note 3.
7 l. m. cuklAnz, rAPE on triAl, 116 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).
8 Mills, K. What difference do women journalists make? in WomEn, mEdiA And PoliticS, 41–56
(P. Norris ed., Oxford University Press, 1997); K. Soothill & S. WAlBy, SEx crimES in thE nEWS
(Routledge, 1991).

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