Fast Facts About Public Attitudes and Media Coverage About Sexual Abuse
Fact 1: Public perceptions and media coverage are interrelated.
Media outlets both reflect and drive public perceptions about sexual abuse. The terminology the media use in articles generally reflects common usage, but also can help shape and change perceptions. The move to “person first” language is an example of a change that is both reflecting and driving public attitudes.
Fact 2: The tone of media coverage helps determine public attitudes.
Media outlets that sensationalize articles about sexual abuse enable existing stereotypes and biases to be disseminated unchallenged. Articles that are informational and educational can help increase the public’s understanding of the many complex issues surrounding sexual abuse and the people who commit sexual abuse. These two different types of media coverage can result in very different public attitudes and resulting public policies.
Fact 3: Public attitudes help drive media coverage.
When cultural shifts occur, they can change the public’s attitudes to the point that media coverage must change to stay relevant. The shift in coverage of sexual abuse created by the #MeToo movement is an example of an emerging public attitude driving a change in media coverage.
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ATSA blog posts
- Changing the social norms on sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexualised behaviour, October 20, 2017
- Communicating about child sexual abuse with the public: learning the lessons from public awareness campaigns, July 25, 2017
- Q & A with Christina Mancini entitled "Sexual Assault in the Ivory Tower: Public Opinion on University Accountability and Mandatory Reporting", May 19, 2017
- “Othering” the Offender, March 31, 2017
The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Born this way? A qualitative examination of public perceptions of the causes of pedophilia and sexual offending against children: Richards (2017)
- Washington residents' perceptions of sex offenders and sex offender policies: Fisher & Pedneault (2017)
- Public views about reintegrating child sex offenders via Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA): A qualitative analysis: Richards & McCartan (2016)
- The construction of community understandings of sexual violence: Rethinking public, practitioner, and policy discourses: McCartan, Kemshall, & Tabachnick (2015)
- Assessment of public attitudes towards sex offenders in an Australian population: Shackley, Weiner, Day, & Willis (2014)
- Collateral punishments and sentencing policy: Perceptions of residence restrictions for sex offenders and drunk drivers: Levenson, Shields, & Singleton (2014)
- Might informative media reporting of sexual offending influence community members' attitudes towards sex offenders?: Malinen, Willis, & Johnston (2014)
- Notes on a sex crime scandal: The impact of media coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on public opinion: Mancini & Shields (2014)
- From a lack of engagement and mistrust to partnership? Public attitudes to the disclosure of sex offender information: McCartan (2013)
- Collateral effects of the media on sex offender reintegration: Perceptions of sex offenders, professionals, and the lay public: Corabian & Hogan (2012)
- Demographic differences in public attitudes towards sex offenders: Willis, Malinen, & Johnston (2012)
- Public understandings of sexual abuse and sexual abusers: McCartan, Kemshall, & Hudson (2012)
- 100,000 sex offenders are missing... or are they? Deconstruction of an urban legend: Levenson & Harris (2012)
- Desistance and attitudes towards sex offenders: Facilitation or hindrance?: Willis, Levenson, & Ward (2010)
- Lay perceptions of child pornography offenders: Lam, Mitchell, & Seto (2010)
- Media constructions of, and reactions to, paedophilia in society: McCartan (2010)
- Public attitudes toward sex offenders and their relationship to personality traits and demographic characteristics: Olver & Barlow (2010)
- Sex offender residence restriction laws: Parental perceptions and public policy: Mancini, Shields, Mears, & Beaver (2010)
- Current understandings of paedophilia and the resulting crisis in modern society: McCartan (2008)
- Myths and facts about sexual violence: Public perceptions and implications for prevention: Katz-Schiavone, Levenson, & Ackerman (2008)
- Attitudes about community notification: A comparison of sexual offenders and the non-offending public: Brannon, Levenson, Fortney, & Baker (2007)
- 'Here there be monsters': The public's perception of paedophiles with particular reference to Belfast and Leicester: McCartan (2004)
Additional resources will be listed soon.