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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The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.

Additional resources will be listed soon.

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