ArticlePDF Available

Framing Child Sexual Abuse: A Longitudinal Content Analysis of Newspaper and Television Coverage, 2002–2012

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The way in which the news media frames child sexual abuse can influence public perception. This content analysis of the child sexual abuse coverage of eight national news organizations in the United States from 2002 to 2012 includes the two dominant events of the Catholic Church and Pennsylvania State University child sexual abuse scandals. Census and systematic stratified sampling techniques were applied to articles obtained from the Lexis/Nexis Academic database, resulting in a sample of 503 articles. Intercoder reliability was ensured by double coding a randomly selected sample. Study findings indicate a shift in the attribution of responsibility of child sexual abuse among news organizations over the past decade from an individual-level problem with individual-level solutions to a societal-level problem with institutional culpability. Nevertheless, individual-level solutions continue to be framed as the best possible solution.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=wcsa20
Download by: [73.20.221.60] Date: 17 February 2017, At: 14:50
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
ISSN: 1053-8712 (Print) 1547-0679 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wcsa20
Framing Child Sexual Abuse: A Longitudinal
Content Analysis of Newspaper and Television
Coverage, 2002–2012
Jane Long Weatherred
To cite this article: Jane Long Weatherred (2017) Framing Child Sexual Abuse: A Longitudinal
Content Analysis of Newspaper and Television Coverage, 2002–2012, Journal of Child Sexual
Abuse, 26:1, 3-22, DOI: 10.1080/10538712.2016.1257528
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2016.1257528
Published online: 20 Dec 2016.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 56
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Framing Child Sexual Abuse: A Longitudinal Content
Analysis of Newspaper and Television Coverage,
20022012
Jane Long Weatherred
School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South
Carolina, USA
ABSTRACT
The way in which the news media frame child sexual abuse can
influence public perception. This content analysis of the child
sexual abuse coverage of eight national news organizations in
the United States from 2002 to 2012 includes the two domi-
nant events of the Catholic Church and Pennsylvania State
University child sexual abuse scandals. Census and systematic
stratified sampling techniques were applied to articles
obtained from the Lexis/Nexis Academic database, resulting
in a sample of 503 articles. Intercoder reliability was ensured
by double coding a randomly selected sample. Study findings
indicate a shift in the attribution of responsibility of child
sexual abuse among news organizations over the past decade
from an individual-level problem with individual-level solutions
to a societal-level problem with institutional culpability.
Nevertheless, individual-level solutions continue to be framed
as the best possible solution.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 10 February 2016
Revised 23 September 2016
Accepted 28 September 2016
KEYWORDS
child sexual abuse; content
analysis; framing; framing of
responsibility; institutional
failure; mass media
Introduction
The arrest and conviction of former Pennsylvania State University assistant
football coach Jerry Sandusky for child sexual abuse (CSA) made national
headlines from the fall of 2010 throughout 2012. The constant national news
coverage brought sustained attention to this incident and the issues sur-
rounding it. Prolonged focus on this particular case kept CSA in the minds of
the public and its leaders, including legislators, university presidents, and
child protection advocates. This content analysis study investigates how the
news media frame CSA. This is important because journalists can influence
what institutional leaders, politicians, and CSA advocates can do about the
problem.
Media advocacy is defined as the process by which advocates educate journal-
ists about particular social issues in an attempt to create a catalyst for changes in
CONTACT Jane Long Weatherred, longjd4@email.sc.edu School of Journalism and Mass Communications,
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 29208
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/WCSA
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
2017, VOL. 26, NO. 1, 322
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2016.1257528
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
legislation and policies. In the field of public health, social, political, economic,
and cultural forces come together to improve on the health and well-being of
citizens, and the news media play an important role in advancing the discussion
among the public and policymakers about particular public health issues
(Wallack & Dorfman, 1996). The Sandusky CSA scandal was a newsworthy
event covered by journalists, and it brought increased focus on institutional
leaders and their role in handling CSA incidences. The extensive news coverage
created a sense of urgency among government officials and university leaders to
change their policies and procedures regarding CSA.
When they emphasize certain items within a news story, journalists present
specific news frames to the American public. These frames direct readers to
attend to particular aspects on an issue. How the media frame CSA and
whether this has changed over time is the purpose of this research.
On June 22, 2012, Jerry Sandusky, former assistant coach of the
Pennsylvania State University football team, was convicted on 45 counts of
child molestation amid extensive media coverage. Four months later, as a
result of the Penn State scandal, Florida passed the Protection of Vulnerable
Persons Act (The Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, 2012), the strongest
statute regarding institutional failure to report CSA. Consequently, Florida can
impose a fine of up to $1 million against any institution of higher learning that
fails to report or prevents any person from reporting instances of CSA that are
committed on the property of the institution or at an event sponsored by the
institution (The Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, 2012).
Shortly afterward the Pennsylvania state legislature introduced and passed
House Bills 726, 435, and 436, all further strengthening the states child
protection laws. These laws were introduced as part of the Pennsylvania
legislatures response to the Sandusky CSA scandal.
Across the country, state mandatory reporting laws are coming under
renewed scrutiny in the aftermath of the Penn State scandal. A review by the
Associated Press found that 55 out of 69 Bowl Championship Series (BCS)
schools either reviewed or revised their policies regarding minors on campus,
and 12 made changes requested by the U.S. Department of Education or in
response to new laws passed within their states (Pells, 2013).
That the news of the Sandusky scandal was a catalyst for changes in institu-
tional organizational policies and state child protection laws is important when
compared to how the American public views CSA. Because most Americans,
between 90% to as high as 99%, obtain information about CSA from the news
media (Babatsikos, 2010), it is important to investigate how the news media
frames CSA stories they present to the public.
What role do the media have in influencing how our society views CSA? In
the past, scholars have found that the media highlight individual causes for CSA,
focusing mainly on the perpetrators of the most horrific cases (Kitzinger &
Skidmore, 1995). If the media place a greater focus on institutional culpability,
4J. L. WEATHERRED
this could have implications for future changes in public perceptions, institu-
tional policies, and legislation. If child protection advocates can educate journal-
ists on societal solutions for CSA, the resulting news coverage could influence
how institutional leaders handle CSA cases in the future. Because CSA is
considered a public health problem, how people perceive CSA and what can
be done about it is important.
CSA as a public health problem
Child sexual abuse is a public health problem in the United States, with federal
health officials calculating that all forms of child abuse cost $1.27 million per
year due to strains placed on the criminal justice, health care, and welfare
systems (Fang, Brown, Florence, & Mercy, 2012). Over a decade ago, Surgeon
General David Satcher included CSA among a number of sexually related public
health problems in the United States. (Hammond, 2003). Furthermore, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to place greater
emphasis on CSA prevention with the ultimate goal of creating an environment
in which the mistreatment of children is not tolerated and prevention services
are effective, available, and socially valued (Hammond, 2003;Satcher,2001). The
World Health Organization (WHO) considers CSA and its prevention a public
health priority (Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg, & Zwi, 2002) and identified four levels
of preventative focus: biological and personal risk factors, close relationships of
family and friends, the community in which violence occurs, and the broader
societal context in which violence is either accepted or prohibited.
Experts estimate that 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused before
their 18th birthday (Townsend & Rheingold, 2013) and that there are approxi-
mately 42 million adult survivors of CSA in America (National Association of
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, 2016); however, these numbers are based on
only reported and confirmed cases. CSA prevalence may be much higher, despite
a decline since the early 1990s in reported CSA cases (Finkelhor & Jones, 2006).
Prior to this decline, beginning with the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention
and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974, the number of reported cases rose steadily
(Myers, 2008). Recent meta-analyses of international CSA prevalence found that
reported incidences range between 3% to 17% for males and 8% to 10.7% for
females (Barth, Bermetz, Heim, Trelle, & Tonia, 2013; Pereda, Guilera, Forns, &
Gómez-Benito, 2009; Stoltenborgh, van Ijzendoorn, Euser, & Bakermans-
Kranenburg, 2011). Thus, it is imperative to further examine how media frames
CSA and how this, in turn, influences public perception.
Literature review
A systematic literature review of CSA in the media revealed 17 quantitative
studies, eight of which applied framing theory (Weatherred, 2015). The scholars
who produced this body of research arrived at the very same general
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 5
conclusions: that although CSA was found to be a salient issue with the
American public, spikes in media coverage were directly attributable to con-
tinual focus on the most egregious offenders and cases, and media content
focused on individual blame rather than societal causes of CSA.
Most scholars, however, find that the episodic nature of news coverage has
remained constant (Beckett, 1996; Cheit, Shavit, & Reiss-Davis, 2010). Although
previous content analyses found a preponderance of episodic versus thematic
framing of CSA, some researchers have suggested that media advocacy shifts
attribution from the individualistic to societal view of the effects of CSA
(Wallack & Dorfman, 1996). A shift from individual to institutional blame
was suggested in a study of the initial coverage of the Sandusky case
(Dorfman, Mejia, Gonzalez, & Cheyne, 2012).
This study seeks to apply a more recent, longitudinal, and specific approach to
the framing of CSA in the news. Only the Beckett study, which compared frames
appearing in U.S. national magazines, covered a longer time frame (1980 to
1994), a 14-year span. Hove and colleagues conducted research on the years
2000 to 2008 but chose to include neglect, physical, verbal, and mental abuse as
well as sexual abuse. The current study expands the scope of previous U.S.
studies by including television coverage, thus enabling a comparison of CSA
framing by newspapers and television stations. Earlier research found that
television news tends to focus on episodic rather than thematic portrayals
(Iyengar, 1990). While some scholars chose particular national or local news-
papers or leading news magazines to analyze, this study sought to focus on
national news media outlets. This was done because local news organizations
tend to follow the lead of the national media, as they are often recognized as
agenda-setting media organizations (Lacy, Fico, & Simon, 1991).
Framing of responsibility
The notion of framing among media scholars developed in tandem with agenda
setting theory as a way to examine influence. Framing focuses on the nature of
the news coverage rather than the amount of attention devoted to the issue.
Framing is the process of exerting influence over an individuals perceptions
of meaning attributed to messages (Gitlin, 1980). Journalists use frames to
organize the events they report to help the public in understanding these events.
In mass communication research, framing theory seeks to define how the news
media shape public opinion (Scheufele, 1999) and play a key role in defining
social problems by emphasizing particular aspects of events or issues and
making connections among them in order to promote a particular interpretation
or solution (Entman, 1993). Framing suggests how the public should think about
an issue and what should be done about it; both journalists and special interest
groups can influence frames (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989).
6J. L. WEATHERRED
The framing of responsibility is an effort to understand attribution, or how
people assign cause to social problems. It is during this process that the news
media define a specific social problem, leading the public to make attributions
of responsibility and judgments based on the news frames (Kim, Scheufele, &
Shanahan, 2002). In his research on the framing of responsibility for political
issues and poverty, Iyengar argues that news coverage is dominated by the
episodic framing of stories to the exclusion of thematic framing (Iyengar, 1990,
1996). Episodic framing focuses on storytelling by presenting an issue as it
relates to a specific issue or person (Kim & Willis, 2007), while thematic
framing places the issue in a larger societal context. In addition, episodic
framing places the blame for societal problems squarely on individuals to the
exclusion of larger societal factors (Kim, Carvalho, & Davis, 2010; Kim &
Willis, 2007). The framing of news stories on television is generally more
episodic than thematic (Iyengar, 1990).
Because people tend to want to identify causes and assign responsibility for
social problems, Wallack and colleagues (Wallack, 1989;Wallack,Dorfman,
Jernigan, & Themba, 1993)observed that Americans frame issues to portray the
larger social system as fundamentally sound and prefer to attribute problems to
corrupt, inept, or irresponsible individuals(Hallahan, 1999, p. 220). This
fundamental attribution error is an individuals preference for viewing problems
as stemming from individual behaviors rather than systemic issues of society as a
whole. As a result, little attention is given to the broader context of societal issues
and potential solutions (Wallack, 1993). Various problemsAIDS, alcoholism,
child abuse, cigarette addiction, drug abuse and overeatinghave been framed
as problems of individuals rather than society(Hallahan, 1999,p.220).
Research of a broad range of social problems has found that episodic and
individual news media frames dominate (Iyengar, 1990,1996;Kimetal.,2002;
Kim et al., 2010; Kim, Carvalho, Davis, & Mullins, 2011;Kim&Willis,2007).
Social causes and solutions are largely ignored, thereby emphasizing individual
causes and solutions (Wallack, 1989).
If certain aspects of CSA are featured more prominently than others in news
stories, what does this suggest about how the problem should be addressed?
Who is portrayed as being most responsible for CSA in our society? In order for
the American public to consider CSA in terms of solutions that will benefit
society and improve public health, it truly matters whether CSA is presented as a
societal or an individual problem.
Research questions
This study seeks to quantitatively explore how the media has framed CSA,
specifically whether it is framed as an individual or a societal level problem,
from 2002 to 2012.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 7
The first research question seeks to establish the frequency of CSA news
stories throughout the time period.
RQ1: How often do news stories about CSA appear in U.S. television and
newspaper coverage?
Because previous research indicated a spike in news coverage that could be
attributed to the Catholic Church, a quantitative measurement of this coverage
was included in the coding sheet. The articles that were about Sandusky, the
Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, or other categories were coded. Therefore,
the following research question is posed:
RQ2: How much news coverage is about these specific CSA scandals?
The next research question seeks to establish the nature of the news
coverage, specifically if it is focused on individual or societal causes and
solutions.
RQ3: Is news coverage about CSA focused on individual or societal level
causes and solutions?
The fourth question seeks to determine whether differences in coverage of
CSA exist between newspapers and television.
RQ4: Do newspapers and television differ in whether they focus more on
individual-level or societal causes and solutions for CSA?
In order to determine whether there have been changes in how the news
media frame CSA, the following research question was posed:
RQ5: Has the medias framing of responsibility shifted from individual- to
societal-level causes and solutions over time?
Method
Time frame
Because previous research attributed a spike in 2002 to the Catholic Church
(Cheit et al., 2010; Hove, Paek, Isaacson, & Cole, 2013), this study begins in 2002.
A recent study examined patterns in CSA news coverage during years not
dominated by a specific individual or institutional case (20072009) (Mejia,
Cheyne, & Dorfman, 2012), but the current study analyzed news articles over
a decade-long time period and included analysis of television transcripts. In
order to expand on the content analysis of only the first 9 days of Sandusky
8J. L. WEATHERRED
coverage (Dorfman et al., 2012), all CSA news coverage through 2012, up to and
shortly after his conviction, was included. Therefore, the time frame, from 2002
to 2012, an 11-year period, was established to account for and include spikes in
media coverage documented on both ends of the time period as well as news
coverage that might fall between the two dominant events of the Catholic
Church and Sandusky scandals.
Sample
Eight major national news organizations, the New York Times, Washington Post,
ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC news, were selected for content
analysis. These organizations have historically and consistently been found to
establish the tone and framing of social issues such as CSA across the United
States (Pew Research Center, 2010b).
A preliminary search of the Lexis/Nexis Academic database for articles
between December 31, 2001, and January 1, 2013, was conducted using the
term child sexual abusein order to identify news articles and television
transcripts about the topic from the eight national news organizations selected
to sample. For content analysts, Lexis/Nexis is probably the most important
source of textual data(Krippendorff, 2012, p. 275).
A stratified sampling technique was applied to the news sources to obtain a
representative sample of articles from each source. In the case of CNN, the New
York Times,andWashington Post, a systematic random sampling procedure was
conducted that consisted of selecting every xth unit using a calculated skip
interval based on the total number of articles from which to sample. This
random sampling technique is a recommended method for media content
analysis research (Neuendorf, 2002). Some populations remained small using
this technique; therefore, it was decided to census all news articles from the
initial sample for MSNBC (n = 30), CBS (n = 28) and Fox (n = 45). ABC news
was an exception due to an initial limited search for content specifically within
the body of the news articles, which resulted in a low population of 20 articles;
therefore, a second search was conducted where no limiter was applied, which
resulted in 91 articles, from which 80 were selected using a random number
generator. NBC news generated 88 articles, and a random number generator was
employed to select 80. In this manner a combination of a census and systematic
stratified sampling technique was applied to the total population of articles
(N= 1,521) resulting in a sample of articles (N= 503) to study [Table 1]. As is
common in content analysis studies, especially those that examine media con-
tent, the use of some combination of random sampling and stratified sampling
techniques are applied (Riffe, Lacy, & Drager, 1996). The goal of conducting this
detailed and systematic search method and sampling technique was to generate a
large but quality pool of articles from which to select a manageable, representa-
tive, reliable, and generalizable sample for content analysis.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 9
Coding
A coding instrument was developed based on previous research about the framing
of responsibility for social problems (Iyengar, 1990,1996;Kimetal.,2002;Kim
et al., 2010,2011; Kim, Han, Choi, & Kim, 2012; Kim & Willis, 2007). Four
quadrants were established for coding: individual-level causes, individual-level
solutions, societal-level causes, and societal-level solutions within the print news
articles and television transcripts sampled. Initial coder sheet development was
conducted by reviewing CSA articles that were independent of the sample com-
bined with the results of the literature review, both on the topic and previous
studies, using the framing of responsibility theoretical framework. A codebook
was developed to provide detailed definitions of terms and operationalizations of
the variables as they applied to the content for study. A copy of the codebook and
coding sheet are available on request from the author.
Coder reliability
Two coders, the primary author and a research assistant, coded articles selected
from outside the sample time frame throughout a series of training sessions.
Pilot test sessions allowed for refining, expanding, adding, or deleting vari-
ables, resulting in the final coding sheet.
Intercoder reliability was conducted by double coding a randomly selected
sample size (n = 78), or 15.5% of the articles (N= 503). Final intercoder
reliability for all variables was measured using Krippendorffs alpha, resulting
in a range of a= .67 to a= 1.0 with an average reliability of .84 across variables,
thus achieving acceptable reliability scores consistent with other published
content analyses (Fico, Lacy, & Riffe, 2008; Matthes & Kohring, 2008). The
remaining sample yielded a total of (N= 436) articles, because 65 were coded as
unrelated and 2 were duplicates.
All data from the coding of 436 news items were entered into IBMsSPSStobe
analyzed. Frequencies, group statistics, paired sample t-tests, and independent
samples tests were conducted to compare the individual-level variables to the
societal-level variables.
Table 1. Combined Stratified and Census Sampling Technique.
News Organization Segment No. Articles Sample Parameters
CNN Body 460 80 Every 6th
New York Times Body 450 80 Every 6th
Washington Post Body 329 80 Every 4th
ABC News None 91 80 Random
a
NBC News Body 88 80 Random
a
Fox News Body 45 45 Census
b
MSNBC Body 30 30 Census
b
CBS News Body 28 28 Census
b
Totals 1521 503
a
80 items were selected using a random number generator.
b
Sample was too small to use limiters.
10 J. L. WEATHERRED
Causes and solutions for CSA
The coding sheet developed by the two coders specifies the potential causes and
solutions for CSA included in the content analysis of the articles. An obvious
individual-level cause of CSA is the perpetrator, sex offender, or pedophile.
Because these terms are used interchangeably within news stories, or as long
as an offender was named, they were listed together as one variable. Another
contributing cause is the silent nature of CSA. In many cases, victims either do
not report or delay reporting abuse, sometimes until years later. These distinct
qualifications of victim reporting became two variables: victim did not report and
victim delayed reporting. Mental illness of CSA perpetrators was also classified as
an individual-level cause. Because children may often report CSA to a parent or
other adult who attempts to convince them to not report the incident(s) to
authorities, another variable included at the individual-level was that a parent or
other adult did not report CSA. In order to establish mutually exclusive variables
to account for both individual-level cases and solutions for these variables, the
opposite quadrant includes four variables considered possible solutions to the
problem of the perpetrator, sex offender, pedophile: charges are filed, offender is
accused, perpetrator is punished,andattempt to kill or kill the offender.These
variables were derived from pilot test coding of articles as solutions that
appeared in news stories about CSA. To counter victim nonreporting variables,
support and believe victims were chosen as the solution-level variable. Treat
offenders became the mutually exclusive solution to mental illness. Adult, parent,
or other nonreporting was countered with two solution variables, educate people
or parents and encourage reporting. Each individual-level also included an
othercategory, and coders were instructed to write in any other variables
not accounted for in the coding sheet.
Societal-level cause of mandatory reporter did not report was paired with the
solution of punish or prosecute nonreporters as mutually exclusive variables.
Another societal-level cause, victim or parent blaming, as a variable and the
solution of education, prevention, and awareness, were combined as one variable.
Two societal causes, institutional failure and institutional negligence,werepaired
with the opposite solutions of punish institutions and punish leaders. Pilot testing
revealed a divide between church doctrine and secular law issues and was listed as
a societal cause with the opposite variable as a solution of change organizational
policies. This same variable was also the solution listed fororganizational policies
as a cause of CSA. Because it has been found that churches and other organiza-
tions have their own rules and regulations, either published or unpublished,
regarding the handling of the discovery of CSA, this variable was included along
with suggestions for changes to policies within these organizations as potential
solutions. Another contributing cause of CSA, difficulty in prosecuting CSA
cases, was paired with the solution of more resources for social work or law
enforcement. Another cause discovered within sample news stories was support
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 11
of the accused offender, usually by prominent officials or other pillars of the
community, with more thorough investigation of cases as a solution. The last
societal-level variable cause, weak or ineffective laws, was paired with the solu-
tion, change, improve, or enforce laws, and included as one variable. Otherwas
listed as both a societal-level cause and solution variable, and coders were
instructed to write in what these variables represented on the coding sheet.
Results
The frequency and content of news stories about CSA in this sample is
illustrated in Figure 1. There was a spike in news coverage from 2002 to
2003 primarily attributable to the Catholic Church CSA scandals, as pre-
viously documented. However, beginning in 2004 and continuing through
2010, a 7-year period, fewer than 25 articles in the sample appeared each
year. Another spike occurred from 2011 through 2012 attributable to news
coverage of the Sandusky scandal.
The 436 articles were coded for content, specifically whether the story was
about the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Sandusky, or other(Figure 1).
Results reveal that 75% (n = 331) of the articles were either attributable to
Sandusky or othertopics. About half of the stories (n = 169) appeared from
2011 to 2012 and was about Sandusky. The other half (n = 162) was categorized
as otherand appeared more evenly distributed across the time period. The
Catholic Church was featured in (n = 100) stories, with the majority appearing in
2002. Only 5 news stories were about the Boy Scouts, and all of them appeared in
2012, coinciding with the release of the perversion filesto the public by the Los
Angeles Times in October of that year.
To determine whether news coverage of CSA was focused more on individual
or societal level causes or solutions, frequencies were calculated for each variable
by source (Table 2). The individual cause of perpetrator, sex offender, or
pedophile appeared most frequently across all news organizations (n = 312).
This is most likely because news stories do not cover CSA unless a perpetrator
has been arrested and charged by law enforcement. The second most cited CSA
cause was that the victim delayed reporting of the incident (n = 71), followed
closely by an adult or parent choosing not to report CSA (n = 64). The lowest
ranking individual causes within this sample were mental illness (n = 38) and the
victim failing to report CSA (n = 31).
The individual solution most frequently mentioned in news stories was
that charges were filed (n = 276), followed by offender was accused (n = 232)
and perpetrator was punished (n = 139), again indicating that actions by law
enforcement predicate news stories about CSA. Other solutions were sup-
porting and believing victims (n = 80), the need to encourage reporting of
CSA (n = 55), educating people and parents (n = 42), and providing treat-
ment for sex offenders (n = 30). The least mentioned solution was that of a
12 J. L. WEATHERRED
Figure 1. Frequency of CSA news stories by topic 20022012.
Table 2. Individual and Societal Level Variables in CSA News Coverage, 20022012.
NYT WP ABC CBS CNN FOX MSN NBC Total Percent
Individual Level Causes
Offender 37 49 57 20 45 24 29 51 312 71.6
Mental illness of offender 3 6 5 1 12 3 3 5 38 8.7
Victim delayed reporting 7 11 9 8 15 5 4 12 71 16.3
Victim did not report 1 3 2 5 12 2 1 5 31 7.1
Parent, other adult did not report 4 1 10 7 13 1 7 21 64 14.7
Other 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 3 6 1.4
Individual Level Solutions
Accuse offender 29 21 52 11 37 24 14 44 232 53.2
File charges against offender 35 36 53 20 38 19 28 47 276 63.3
Punish offender 14 24 31 4 27 12 9 18 139 31.9
Treat offender 3 11 2 0 8 2 2 2 30 6.9
Attempt to kill or kill offender 1 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 5 1.1
Support, believe victim 7 15 4 6 15 5 9 19 80 18.3
Encourage reporting 6 9 1 2 17 5 1 14 55 12.6
Educate parents and others 4 5 3 2 13 11 2 2 42 9.6
Other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.2
Societal Level Causes
Institutional failure 46 44 34 9 27 5 19 46 230 52.8
Organizational policies 15 26 3 4 14 0 7 11 80 18.3
Church doctrine versus secular law 14 13 4 2 11 1 0 7 52 11.9
Institutional negligence 3 5 1 2 0 0 1 0 12 3.9
Support given to the offender 17 14 18 5 13 6 6 12 91 20.9
Blaming of victim, parent 9 2 4 5 10 5 4 9 48 11.0
Mandatory reporter did not report 12 6 11 4 9 3 15 18 78 17.8
Weak or ineffective laws 10 16 1 0 13 14 3 8 65 14.9
Difficulty prosecuting CSA cases 6 10 11 2 13 7 5 10 64 14.7
Other 0 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 6 1.4
Societal Level Solutions
Punish leaders 18 21 16 6 20 3 17 27 128 29.4
Punish institutions 22 17 12 4 16 4 12 17 104 23.9
Change organizational policies 19 28 4 3 14 0 5 14 87 20.0
Change, improve, enforce laws 11 15 1 0 14 14 4 8 67 15.4
Punish nonreporters 10 9 7 3 8 2 11 12 62 14.2
Prosecute nonreporters 8 8 9 2 8 4 8 10 57 13.1
Education, prevention, awareness 11 10 3 4 9 5 3 5 50 11.5
Investigate cases thoroughly 4 8 2 1 5 4 6 15 45 10.3
Provide resources for social workers, police 0 4 1 1 5 1 2 4 18 4.1
Other 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1.4
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 13
victim or other person taking the law into his or her own hands by attempt-
ing to kill or successfully killing an offender (n = 5).
The most frequently mentioned societal cause of CSA across all news
sources was institutional failure (n = 230). It is interesting to note that
supporting the accused offender was the second most frequent societal cause,
with 91 mentions. This suggests the level of doubt that persists when offenders
are accused, some who may be pillars of the community. Organizational
policies as a cause (n = 80) was closely followed by news indicating that a
mandatory reporter did not report CSA (n = 78). Weak and/or ineffective laws
were ranked among the number of citations (n = 65). The debate about
whether the Catholic Church should abide by secular law or church doctrine
was often mentioned in stories (n = 52) about incidents involving priests who
commit CSA offenses. Citations for victim and parent blaming (n = 48) indi-
cate that this mindset continues to exist. Institutional negligence was cited only
12 times, revealing a shift toward holding institutions, organizational policies,
and mandatory reporters more accountable.
The most frequently mentioned societal solutions for CSA in this national
news sample were punishing institutional leaders (n = 128), punishing institu-
tions (n = 104), and changing organizational policies (n = 87). A need to change,
improve, or enforce laws (n = 67); punish nonreporters (n = 62); and prosecute
nonreporters (n = 57) each received a similar number of mentions. Articles
about education prevention and awareness ranked lower among societal solu-
tions (n = 50), and providing more resources and support for social workers and
law enforcement for CSA cases received the fewest mentions (n = 18).
The mean scores for individual-level causes and solutions and societal-level
causes and solutions were calculated to determine the most frequently men-
tioned attributes and to determine significance. Because the comparison between
individual-level versus societal-level causes or solution variables is a within
subject comparison of means, not groups, paired sample t-tests were performed.
These analyses indicate that the relationship between means of individual-level
causes (M= 1.19, SD = .976) and individual-level solutions (M=1.97,
SD = 1.38) as well as between societal-level causes (M=1.67,SD = 1.44) and
societal-level solutions (M= 1.41, SD =1.62)arenot significant when tested to
control for error rate, z > 1.96, p > .05. However, the results of 2-tailed
significance tests between mean individual-level and societal-level causes was
significant (t = .002; p< .05), as was the relationship between mean individual-
level and societal-level solutions (t = .036; p < .05).
When paired samples t-tests were conducted to compare these groups of
variables, the results were both significant. When individual-level causes were
paired with and societal-level causes, the results were, t= 6.54, (M=.479,
SD =1.52),p= .000. However, the comparison between individual-level and
societal-level solutions was significant where t= 5.79, (M=.552,SD = 1.99),
p= .000. Paired sample correlations between individual-level causes and
14 J. L. WEATHERRED
societal-level causes were also significant (t = .246, p= .000), as were those
between individual-level solutions and societal-level solutions (t = .130,
p= .007). Overall, these results indicate that the news media are more likely to
focus on societal-level causes and individual-level solutions. In other words, the
results reveal that news stories about CSA between 2002 and 2012 mention
individual-level solutions for CSA more frequently despite placing the blame for
CSA on societal-level causes.
To determine whether newspapers and television differ in their focus on
individual or societal causes and solutions for CSA, an independent samples
t-test to compare groups (newspapers vs. television) was performed (Table 3). It
revealed that, on average, television news organizations focused their news
reports on individual-level causes and solutions for CSA, whereas newspapers
included societal-level causes and solutions for CSA. Although the results
revealed differences among means, these differences were not sizable.
Has the framing of responsibility for CSA as reported in the news media
changed over time? Figure 2 reveals that the focus on individual level causes and
solutions declined between 2002 and 2010 but spiked throughout 2011 and 2012.
In addition, the focus has been on individual solutions rather than individual
causes throughout the 11-year period. Figure 3 indicates a decline in reporting
on societal-level causes and solutions for CSA from 2002 until 2009, climbing to
a peak almost in tandem in 2011, only to decline throughout 2012. Although
societal-level causes were mentioned more frequently, reporting on societal level
solutions closely mimics the news media pattern of focus throughout the time
period. Both figures illustrate two significant spikes in news coverage that
occurred during the 11-year period. The first spike in 2002 can be attributed
to news coverage about the Catholic Church CSA scandals, and the second spike
that occurred from 2011 to 2012 can be attributed to the Sandusky scandal.
Finally, Figure 4 illustrates the strong correlation between assigning blame to
institutions and the institutional failure of the Catholic Church and Penn State
in relationship to the timing of these CSA events. Most interesting and notable is
the increase in assigning blame to institutions and their leaders for CSA because
the societal cause cited the most in this sample of news stories was institutional
failure (n = 230) followed by supporting the offender (n = 91).
Discussion
By analyzing newspaper and television coverage of CSA between 2002 and 2012,
this study found that the U.S. national news media have framed the issue by
focusing on causes of CSA, who is to blame, and solutions. This study found that
the national news media have spent the past decade focused on societal-level
causes but individual-solutions for CSA and is reflective of the findings of
scholars who conducted content analyses on two other public health social
issues: poverty and obesity (Kim et al., 2010; Kim & Willis, 2007). The results
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 15
also replicate the two spikes in news coverage (Cheit et al., 2010; Dorfman et al.,
2012;Hoveetal.,2013). However, overall, the national news media do not cover
CSA as frequently as one might expect, with fewer than 25 articles per year on
average across all news sources. These results indicate that national news sources
Table 3. Attribution of Individual and Societal Levels of Responsibility in News Coverage of Child
Sexual Abuse, 20022012.
Individual-Level and Societal-
Level Variables
Newspapers versus
Television N Mean
Standard
Deviation
Standard Error
Mean
Individual-Level Causes Newspapers 134 .91 .81 .07
Individual-Level Causes Television 302 1.32 1.01 .05
Individual-Level Solutions Newspapers 134 1.65 1.41 .12
Individual-Level Solutions Television 302 2.11 1.34 .07
Societal-Level Causes Newspapers 134 2.01 1.53 .13
Societal-Level Causes Television 302 1.52 1.37 .07
Societal-Level Solutions Newspapers 134 1.67 1.59 .13
Societal-Level Solutions Television 302 1.30 1.62 .09
Figure 2. Means comparison of individual-level causes versus individual-level solutions.
Figure 3. Means comparison of societal-level causes versus societal-level solutions.
16 J. L. WEATHERRED
do not cover CSA as much as perceived by the American public unless the most
egregious and dominant cases of CSA come to the attention of journalists,
replicating similar results of content analysis research conducted by Berkeley
Media Studies Group (Mejia et al., 2012).
The results of the comparison between newspaper and television coverage
of CSA were predictable and not significant. Newspapers tend to focus
slightly more on societal level causes and solutions because print journalists
have more space and time for in-depth reporting than television news
reporters (Kim et al., 2010).
Regarding the research question about whether the framing of CSA in the
news media has changed between 2002 and 2012, this study found that it has
changed in one aspect. Previous research found that the news media frames CSA
news stories as individual problems attributed largely to stranger danger and the
sex offenders themselves, with the solutions for the problem recommending
prosecution and incarceration of the perpetrators with no mention of larger
societal issues or the need for education and prevention efforts (Beckett, 1996;
Cheit, 2003;Cheitetal.,2010; Dorfman et al., 2012; Kitzinger & Skidmore, 1995;
Mejia et al., 2012). This study found that althoughthe media continue to focus on
some of the most egregious and notorious CSA cases, societal-level causes for
CSA are mentioned more frequently. However, the solutions for CSA mentioned
most often in news reports still remain highly focused on the individual. These
results reflect those of prevalence studies conducted by CSA scholars that led
them to predict that the number of CSA cases is much lower than that of actual
CSA incidents because of a lack of incidence reporting by victims (Finkelhor,
1986; Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990; Finkelhor & Jones, 2006).
Limitations
There are a few limitations to this study. The sample size was small considering
the number of years included in the analysis. However, the quality of articles
Figure 4. Institutional failure variable 20022012.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 17
determined by the search parameters and the few unrelated articles make the
study generalizable to the general population of articles, specifically about CSA
throughout the 11-year time period. Although most variables were accounted
for in the analysis, one variable in the othercategory was access to child
pornography on the Internet as a potential cause for CSA. Further research
revealed that the availability of child pornography does not directly cause CSA
but could increase the likelihood that an offender will offend and is also
considered a CSA crime (Bourke & Hernandez, 2009).
Another limitation was the inclusion of the Boy Scouts as specific content to
be coded. There were more news stories about Michael Jackson in the sample,
yet these were coded in the othercategory. The Boy Scouts articles could also
have been placed in the othercategory; however, that there were only 5 articles
in the sample over an 11-year period is an important finding. The decision was
therefore made to include it among the reported results.
Conclusion and future research
That the news media are beginning to report on societal level causes for CSA
indicates a shift from previous research. The lack of news coverage about
solutions, specifically CSA prevention, education, and awareness offers an
opportunity for CSA professionals and advocates to address this subject as
they interact with the media regarding CSA incidents, both locally and nation-
ally. Child protection professionals could increase awareness of societal-level
solutions via media advocacy efforts. In addition to making themselves available
to the news media when these cases come to the forefront, they could also
prepare media kits that include a position paper on evidence-based ways in
which to prevent CSA and ensure that reports of CSA are made through the
proper channels. The kits could also provide resources for children who report
CSA and for their parents or guardians.
In order to achieve change, it is important to consider the values on which
society is based and how the news media can potentially influence public
perceptions. Journalists ought to educate themselves about CSA and seek out
CSA experts, researchers, and advocates as sources when covering CSA cases.
Rather than focusing the story on the offender and criminal justice process, the
discussion should evolve to include practical implications for improving child
protection resources and CSA awareness training. Journalists should also pre-
sent solutions for how cases should be handled or prevented within schools,
churches, sports, and volunteer organizations.
What does this signify for our nations institutions? Societal-level solutions
may come to be cited more often if the focus on the failure of institutions and
their leaders to protect children continues to increase. Changing organizational
policies and state and national laws are most often mentioned as solutions to this
public health problem. Institutional leaders can be part of the solution if they
18 J. L. WEATHERRED
change existing hiring practices and provide more employee education and
training on reporting CSA incidences. Human resource departments should
redefine how these issues are handled within legal guidelines in order to better
protect children. The combination of intense media coverage, stricter legislation,
and the implementation of accountability procedures ought to encourage insti-
tutions such as schools and churches to act on CSA incident reports. The
financial and reputational liability has become far too great for leaders to choose
protecting the institution over the safety of children. Future research could be
directed toward investigating the impact of changes in laws on CSA news
coverage or of the effect of CSA news coverage on child protection public policy.
This study also has implications for future research on the perception of
risk of CSA within our society, because the greatest impact can be made not
only when laws and organizational policies are changed but also if the public
shows a greater willingness to be educated about CSA.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible
committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki
Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for
being included in the study.
Acknowledgments
This manuscript is the product of a graduate level content analysis research methods course
taught by Dr. Sei-Hill Kim, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of
South Carolina. This research could not have been accomplished without the support and
coding assistance provided by Kathleen Trigg, Professor of Communication, Department of
Communication and Modern Languages, Florida College.
Notes on contributor
Jane Long Weatherred is currently a second year doctoral student in the School of
Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina in Columbia,
South Carolina.
References
Babatsikos, G. (2010). Parentsknowledge, attitudes and practices about preventing child sexual
abuse: A literature review. Child Abuse Review,19(2), 107129. doi:10.1002/car.v19:2
Barth, J., Bermetz, L., Heim, E., Trelle, S., & Tonia, T. (2013). The current prevalence of child
sexual abuse worldwide: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of
Public Health,58(3), 469483. doi:10.1007/s00038-012-0426-1
Beckett, K. (1996). Culture and the politics of signification: The case of child sexual abuse.
Social Problems,43(1), 5776. doi:10.2307/3096894
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 19
Bourke, M. L., & Hernandez, A. E. (2009). The Butner Studyredux: A report of the
incidence of hands-on child victimization by child pornography offenders. Journal of
Family Violence,24(3), 183191. doi:10.1007/s10896-008-9219-y
Cheit, R. (2003). What hysteria? A systematic study of newspaper coverage of accused child
molesters. Child Abuse & Neglect,27(6), 607623. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(03)00108-X
Cheit, R., Shavit, Y., & Reiss-Davis, Z. (2010). Magazine coverage of child sexual abuse,
19922004. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse,19(1), 99117. doi:10.1080/10538710903485575
Dorfman, L., Mejia, P., Gonzalez, P., & Cheyne, A. (2012). Breaking news on child sexual
abuse: Early coverage of Penn State. Berkeley Media Studies Group. Berkeley, CA: Public
Health Institute. Retrieved from http://www.bsmg.org/resources/publications/breaking-
news-on-child-sexual-abuse
Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of
Communication,43(4), 5158. doi:10.1111/jcom.1993.43.issue-4
Fang, X., Brown, D. S., Florence, C. S., & Mercy, J. A. (2012). The economic burden of child
maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect,
36(2), 156165. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.10.006
Fico, F. G., Lacy, S., & Riffe, D. (2008). A content analysis guide for media economics
scholars. Journal of Media Economics,21(2), 114130. doi:10.1080/08997760802069994
Finkelhor, D. (1986). Child sexual abuse: New theory and research. New York: Free Press.
Finkelhor, D., & Araji, S. (1986). A sourcebook on child sexual abuse. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Finkelhor, D., & Jones, L. (2006). Why have child maltreatment and child victimization
declined? Journal of Social Issues,62(4), 685716. doi:10.1111/josi.2006.62.issue-4
Francilus, J. (2012, October 1). Protection of Vulnerable PersonsAct criminalizes failure to
report child abuse in Florida. New York, NY: The Huffington Post.
Gamson, W. A., & Modigliani, A. (1989). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power:
A constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology,95,137. doi:10.1086/229213
Gitlin, T. (1980). The whole world is watching: Mass media in the making and unmaking of the
new left. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven models of framing: Implications for public relations. Journal of
Public Relations Research,11(3), 205242. doi:10.1207/s1532754xjprr1103_02
Hammond, W. R. (2003). Public health and child maltreatment prevention: The role of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Child Maltreatment,8(2), 8183. doi:10.1177/
1077559503253711
Hove, T., Paek, H.-J., Isaacson, T., & Cole, R. T. (2013). Newspaper portrayals of child abuse:
Frequency of coverage and frames of the issue. Mass Communication and Society,16(1),
89108. doi:10.1080/15205436.2011.632105
Iyengar, S. (1990). Framing responsibility for political issues: The case of poverty. Political
Behavior,12(1), 1940. doi:10.1007/BF00992330
Iyengar, S. (1996). Framing responsibility for political issues. The Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science,546,5970. doi:10.1177/0002716296546001006
Kim, S.-H., Carvalho, J. P., & Davis, A. C. (2010). Talking about poverty: News framing of
who is responsible for causing and fixing the problem. Journalism & Mass Communication
Quarterly,87(34), 563581. doi:10.1177/107769901008700308
Kim, S.-H., Carvalho, J. P., Davis, A. G., & Mullins, A. M. (2011). The view of the border:
News framing of the definition, causes, and solutions to illegal immigration. Mass
Communication and Society,14(3), 292314. doi:10.1080/15205431003743679
Kim, S.-H., Han, M., Choi, D.-H., & Kim, J.-N. (2012). Attribute agenda setting, priming and
the medias influence on how to think about a controversial issue. International
Communication Gazette,74(1), 4359. doi:10.1177/1748048511426991
20 J. L. WEATHERRED
Kim, S.-H., Scheufele, D. A., & Shanahan, J. (2002). Think about it this way: Attribute agenda-
setting function of the press and the publics evaluation of a local issue. Journalism & Mass
Communication Quarterly,79(1), 725. doi:10.1177/107769900207900102
Kim, S.-H., & Willis, A. (2007). Talking about obesity: News framing of who is responsible for
causing and fixing the problem. Journal of Health Communication,12(4), 359376.
doi:10.1080/10810730701326051
Kitzinger, J., & Skidmore, P. (1995). Playing safe: Media coverage of child sexual abuse
prevention strategies. Child Abuse Review,4,4756. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1099-0852
Krippendorff, K. (2012). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.
Krug, E. G., Mercy, J. A., Dahlberg, L. L., & Zwi, A. B. (2002). The world report on violence
and health. The Lancet,360(9339), 10831088
Lacy, S., Fico, F., & Simon, T. F. (1991). Fairness and balance in the prestige press. Journalism
& Mass Communication Quarterly,68(3), 363370. doi:10.1177/107769909106800306
Matthes, J., & Kohring, M. (2008). The content analysis of media frames: Toward improving
reliability and validity. Journal of Communication,58(2), 258279. doi:10.1111/jcom.2008.58.
issue-2
Mejia, P., Cheyne, A., & Dorfman, L. (2012). News coverage of child sexual abuse and
prevention, 20072009. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse,21(4), 470487. doi:10.1080/
10538712.2012.692465
Myers, J. E. B. (2008). A short history of child protection in America. Family Law Quarterly,
42, 449463.
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. (2016). What are the statistics of the
abused? Retrieved from http://www.naasca.org/2012/Resources/010812-
StatisticsOfChildAbuse.htm
Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pells, E. (2013). Most schools changed policies after Sandusky scandal. Wilkes-Barre, PA:
Times Leader.com.
Pereda, N., Guilera, G., Forns, M., & Gómez-Benito, J. (2009). The prevalence of child sexual
abuse in community and student samples: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review,29
(4), 328338. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.02.007
Pew Research Center. (2010b). How news happens: A study of the news ecosystem of one
American city. Washington, DC: Author.
The Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, Florida Stat. Ann. d d 2012-155-39205. (2012).
Riffe, D., Lacy, S., & Drager, M. W. (1996). Sample size in content analysis of weekly news
magazines. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly,73(3), 635644. doi:10.1177/
107769909607300310
Satcher, D. (2001). The surgeon generals call to action to promote sexual health and
responsible sexual behavior. American Journal of Health Education,32(6), 356368.
doi:10.1080/19325037.2001.10603498
Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication,49
(1), 103122. doi:10.1111/jcom.1999.49.issue-1
Stoltenborgh, M., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Euser, E. M., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J.
(2011). A global perspective on child sexual abuse: Meta-analysis of prevalence around the
world. Child Maltreatment,16(2), 79101. doi:10.1177/1077559511403920
Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A. A. (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for
practitioners: A review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies. Charleston, SC: Darkness to
Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org
Wallack, L. (1989). Mass media and health promotion: The promise, the problem, the challenge.
Berkeley, CA: School of Public Health, University of California.
JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 21
Wallack, L., & Dorfman, L. (1996). Media advocacy: A strategy for advancing policy and
promoting health. Health Education & Behavior,23(3), 293317. doi:10.1177/
109019819602300303
Wallack, L., Dorfman, L., Jernigan, D., & Themba, M. (1993). Media advocacy and public
health: Power for prevention. Newberry Park, CA: Sage.
Weatherred, J. L. (2015). Child sexual abuse and the media: A literature review. Journal of
Child Sexual Abuse,24,1634. doi:10.1080/10538712.2015.976302
22 J. L. WEATHERRED
... However, according to Bullock (2007) who focused on framing of domestic violence news, only a few mainstream newspapers address the role of patriarchal structures. Similarly, research has shown that the media typically portrays acts of SV as isolated incidents rather than a systemic issue (Thakker and Durrant, 2006;Weatherred, 2017). In a study on US local newspapers, Sacks and colleagues (2018) conclude that sexual assault incidents were depicted in a sensationalist manner. ...
... Our results also align with prior research regarding other aspects. Previously conducted research showed that journalistic reportage tends to focus on isolated incidents rather than on systemic issues (McDonald and Charlesworth, 2013;Thakker and Durrant, 2006;Weatherred, 2015Weatherred, , 2017. Our results from the period before #metoo support these findings, as most articles were ascribed to informative news frames (62%). ...
... Furthermore, another aspect of SV in prior literature is the focus on individual blame and victim-blaming (Day et al., 2004;McDonald and Charlesworth, 2013;Weatherred, 2015Weatherred, , 2017. Our findings, however, do not support the presence of victim-blaming in news coverage before or after #metoo. ...
Article
Full-text available
The discussion on sexual violence gained momentum in October 2017 after the Twitter hashtag (#metoo) spread globally highlighting the widespread reality of this problem. While this resulted in extensive media coverage, and naturally informed audiences about societal issues, it can also be problematic regarding the media’s power to reflect and construct reality. Therefore, it is important to research how societal issues like sexual violence are discussed in media settings. The study aimed to investigate how journalists frame sexual violence in the news (RQ1) and whether such practices have changed in the wake of the MeToo movement (RQ2). A quantitative content analysis was conducted for news articles published in four US newspapers, spanning a period of 2 years – from 1 year before to 1 year after the #metoo tweet ( N = 612; Oct. 2016 – Oct. 2018). Results indicate that news coverage on sexual violence shifted from straightforward, single-incident reports to broader discussions. This study contributes to scientific research and journalism practices by providing an overarching view of how sexual violence is framed in the news and the potential impact of social movements on reportage.
... Children are overrepresented in news media as crime victims (Grosholz & Kubrin, 2007), and CSA is overrepresented when compared to other forms of child abuse (Hove et al., 2013). CSA news stories often focus on the most heinous stories and the most extreme offenders (Hove et al., 2013;Popović, 2018b;Smith & Pegoraro, 2020;Weatherred, 2015Weatherred, , 2017. Research in the United States shows that there are big spikes in the number of newspaper articles on CSA attributable to specific cases and perpetrators (Hove et al., 2013;Weatherred, 2017). ...
... CSA news stories often focus on the most heinous stories and the most extreme offenders (Hove et al., 2013;Popović, 2018b;Smith & Pegoraro, 2020;Weatherred, 2015Weatherred, , 2017. Research in the United States shows that there are big spikes in the number of newspaper articles on CSA attributable to specific cases and perpetrators (Hove et al., 2013;Weatherred, 2017). There is evidence that parents associate male childcare professionals with pedophilia and CSA (Rentzou, 2011;Sak et al., 2019). ...
... To index the frequency of yearly publications on topics related to CSA, the NexisUni ® Academic database was searched. This database has been recommended as the most important source for content analysis of textual news data (Krippendorff, 2012;Weatherred, 2017) and has been used before to investigate patterns of media attention over time (e.g., van der Meer et al., 2019). The five largest Dutch newspapers were analyzed, which had a combined daily circulation of 1.63 million copies during Wave 1 of the longitudinal study (Instituut voor Media Auditing, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Consumption of news media can influence attitudes toward specific groups, but the influence of news media on longitudinal data collection has not yet been researched. We present a method to index media attention on a specific topic, as well as a case study on a big child sexual abuse (CSA) story and its effect on parents’ attitudes toward male childcare professionals in a longitudinal study with fathers and mothers of 207 Dutch families. Questionnaire data on attitudes toward gender-differentiated parenting were collected in four annual waves between 2010 and 2014. NexisUni® Academic database was used to index articles on CSA to chart patterns of media attention before and during that time span. There was an immediate increase in media attention, the amount of articles on CSA doubled, as well as a prolonged increase in attention which culminated during the second wave of the study. In the first wave, 97 of the families participated before the CSA case became known, and 110 participated afterward. Parents who participated after the first news about the case came out reported a more negative attitude toward hiring a male babysitter than those who participated before it. This effect was stronger for mothers. The negative effect on attitude endured during the subsequent waves for all fathers and for those mothers who participated before the news broke. Findings indicate that big news stories influence attitudes that lasts over time and can therefore influence longitudinal data. Further analysis suggests that the influence of news stories is gendered, as mothers showed a recovery in their attitudes over time while fathers did not. We recommend further research on the effect of news on attitude and behavioral measures in longitudinal research.
... C hild sexual abuse (CSA) is a global public health problem with short-term and long-term detrimental health effects (Weatherred, 2017). World Health Organization (Geneva et al., 1999;p. ...
... On the other hand, since CSA is one of the major public health problems, how CSA incidents and victims are portrayed in newspapers is a great concern to the public health and communication experts. Facts like-how society perceives CSA, and how the corresponding authorities can change institutional policies, and handle CSA cases and legislations-mostly depend on ethical journalism in media (Weatherred, 2017). In addition, to minimize the potential harm to the CSA victims from newspapers, ethical reporting and practices must be ensured and upheld. ...
... Details of the newspaper stories (texts) and the photos (captions) were documented in a predesigned data (code) collection sheet for analysis. Authors of this study developed the code-sheet based on the empirical studies (Haque et al., 2020;Jones et al., 2010;Weatherred, 2017), existing code of conduct (Bangladesh Press Council, 2002), and guidelines for reporting on children (UNICEF, 2010a(UNICEF, , 2017, and expert opinions. This code-sheet was divided into three parts. ...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Since child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most serious public health issues, how CSA cases and victims are portrayed in the daily newspapers is a major concern to the public health and communication specialists. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the degree of the ethical standard of reporting CSA in Bangladeshi newspapers, as well as to identify the potential risk factors associated with unethical reporting. From January to December 2017, a total of 1093 news stories on CSA were collected from four top circulated Bengali newspapers and two English newspapers of Bangladesh. Berelson’s quantitative content analysis approach (only manifest content) was used to analyze these stories. For the coding and analysis purpose, news items (texts and news with photos) of spot news, editorials, and commentaries were included. Chi-square tests were used to evaluate the bivariate association of different case characteristics with unethical reporting, and multivariate logistic regression models were performed to assess the potential risk factors of disclosing the victim’s identity and needless detail in the news description. This study revealed that more than 40% of news stories on CSA cases did not follow the ethical standard of reporting. Episodic CSA cases were more unethically reported in newspapers, compared to the thematic stories (42.8% vs. 11.6%). Approximately 37% of news stories disclosed at least one identifying information of victims (i.e., name, parents’ name, family member’s name, or school name), and 23% of stories included sensual and/or excessive description of the event. Our adjusted model showed that victim identifiers were most likely to be reported in news stories when the victim was 13–17 years old (AOR 1.86; P = 0.027), the alleged perpetrator held influential social status (AOR 2.44, P = 0.005), the victim was familiar to the perpetrator (AOR 6.85, P
... Treatment and rehabilitation for sex offenders happens both in prison and in the community; however, there is little public awareness of such programmes. While there is some international evidence that media reports are improving by e.g., becoming less likely to engage in sensationalism and focusing less on extreme cases (Grøndahl et al., 2021), they rarely mention rehabilitation, nor do they acknowledge that this is possible (Grøndahl et al., 2021;Mejia et al., 2012;Weatherred, 2017). Moreover, the fact that they are improving does not negate the wealth of evidence, including in the article by Grøndahl et al. (2021), that media narratives are problematic and that they create the perception that sexual offenders are 'irredeemable. ...
... Frame). Durch ihr Framing prägen Mediendarstellungen dann unsere Annahmen über typische Täter:innen, Opfer und Tatkonstellationen, Ursachen und Wirkungen sowie sinnvolle Präventionsund Interventionsansätze (Dorfman et al., 2011;Kitzinger, 2004;Scheufele, 2005;Shavit et al., 2014;Weatherred, , 2017. Dabei sind fiktionale Darstellungen wie Romane, Kinofilme und Fernsehserien bedeutsam (Stompe, 2017), vor allem aber auch nicht-fiktionale Darstellungen wie Presse-, Radio-, Fernseh-und Online-Nachrichten (Scheufele, 2017), da letztgenannte in größerer Zahl existieren und mehr Menschen erreichen. ...
Article
Full-text available
Sexueller Kindesmissbrauch (SKM) ist in Deutschland und international recht weit verbreitet und hat oft schwerwiegende und langfristige Folgen für die Betroffenen. Wie Öffentlichkeit und Politik das gesellschaftliche Problem des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs wahrnehmen und welche Präventions- und Interventionsansätze verfolgt werden, hängt maßgeblich auch von der medialen Berichterstattung ab. Hier zeigt die bisherige kommunikationswissenschaftliche Forschung sowohl Stärken als auch Schwächen medialer SKM-Repräsentationen auf: Einerseits tragen Medien dazu bei, sexuellen Kindesmissbrauch aufzudecken, Betroffenen eine Stimme zu geben und die Öffentlichkeit zu sensibilisieren. Andererseits wird oft klischeehaft und reißerisch berichtet, zuweilen zum Schaden der Betroffenen. Die Forschung zu Inhalten und Qualitätsmerkmalen medialer Berichterstattung über sexuellen Kindesmissbrauch hat einen wichtigen Aspekt bislang völlig ausgeblendet, nämlich die Verwendung von Bildern. Dabei ist die Ikonografie (d. h. die Menge der typischen Bildmotive für ein Thema) ein wichtiges Element medialer Berichterstattung, sie generiert Aufmerksamkeit und Emotionen. Hier setzt die vorliegende Studie an. Sie beantwortet folgende Forschungsfragen: Wie oft werden in der Presseberichterstattung über sexuellen Kindesmissbrauch Symbolbilder genutzt und welche Bildmotive kommen dabei zum Einsatz? Ergänzend wird auch untersucht: Wie oft werden in Präventionsmaterialien von Fachberatungsstellen zu sexuellem Kindesmissbrauch Symbolbilder genutzt und mit welchen Bildmotiven wird dort gearbeitet? Um die jeweiligen Ikonografien des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs herauszuarbeiten, wurden eine Stichprobe von N = 1437 deutschsprachigen Online-Presseartikeln über SKM sowie eine Stichprobe von N = 230 deutschsprachigen SKM-Präventionsmaterialien gezogen und die dort enthaltenen Symbolbilder jeweils separat einer standardisierten Bildinhaltsanalyse unterzogen. Es zeigte sich, dass 29.2 % der Online-Presseartikel und 62.0 % der Präventionsmaterialien Symbolbilder nutzten. Die analysierten 419 SKM-Symbolbilder der Presse orientieren sich am Framing der Kriminalberichterstattung und visualisieren 1. Tatkontexte, 2. Tathergang und Beteiligte sowie 3. Tatfolgen für die Beteiligten. Für die Präventionsmaterialien war anhand von 450 Symbolbildern eine SKM-Ikonografie nachweisbar, die sich am Framing der Präventionsansätze orientiert und 1. Primärprävention, 2. Sekundärprävention und 3. Tertiärprävention abbildet. Der Beitrag vergleicht die beiden SKM-Ikonografien, diskutiert die Bildtypen kritisch im Hinblick auf Kriterien der Medienqualität und Medienethik und unterbreitet Verbesserungsvorschläge. ***Anmerkung*** Dieser Aufsatz hat den Zeitschriftenpreis 2022 der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft DGPuK gewonnen.
... Samtidig er det verdt å merke seg at det meste av forskningen som kartlegger medierapportering av seksuallovbrudd er utført i USA (Weatherred, 2017). Skåringskjemaet vi brukte i denne studien ble opprinnelig utarbeidet for å kartlegge mediedekningen av seksuelle overgrep mot barn i amerikanske aviser (Mejia et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Sammendrag Artikkelen undersøker et utvalg av norske avisers skildring av mennesker som har begått seksuallovbrudd. Utvalget er hentet fra de 10 største avisenes omtale av seksuallovbrudd i to forskjellige tidsperioder; en vanlig periode uten noen spesiell hendelse og en periode med en høyprofilert sak. Hensikten var å sammenligne avisenes dekning i disse to periodene. Vi skåret artiklene ved hjelp av et skjema som tidligere har vært benyttet i en liknende studie. Lederartikler, leserinnlegg og rene temaartikler ble unntatt fra utvalget fordi vi ønsket å se på den journalistiske fremstillingen av seksuallovbrudd. Mediene har vært kritisert for at de setter søkelys på sensasjonelle sider ved seksuallovbrudd og generaliserer utfra enkelttilfeller, og at de dermed bidrar til en stigmatiserende og stereotypisk fremstilling av personer mistenkt for eller dømt for seksuelle overgrep. Vår studie viser overraskende nok at slik fremstilling av personer som har begått seksuallovbrudd forekom relativt sjeldent, kombinert med et tilsvarende fravær av empatisk omtale eller forslag til løsninger om hva som kan gjøres med slike seksuallovbrudd. Artikkelen diskuterer dette funnet opp mot en strafferettslig utvikling som i de senere år entydig har gått i retning av vesentlig strengere straffer for seksuallovbrudd.
... A meta-analysis of 17 studies regarding the coverage of child sexual abuse in American media in the years 2002-2012, shows that the coverage focuses mainly on the perpetrators and detailed descriptions of extreme incidents, rather than "common" ones. The analysis also found that the incidents were framed as isolated, while ignoring the social aspects and implications (Weatherred, 2017). ...
Article
Despite the high prevalence of incest, survivors are reluctant to disclose its existence for reasons such as shame, guilt and the presence of an accusatory and stigmatizing social discourse. The current mixed methods study examined the internal discourses of 13 incest survivors in Israel, reflected in self-reported internal dialogs which emerged during interviews. The qualitative analysis revealed a dialectical tension between two themes – one reflecting an internalization of the social discourse (manifested as quotes taken from social discourse and uttered by the survivors) and the other an agentic discourse (manifested in utterances either resisting the social discourse or showing an empowering advertence to one’s own fulcrum). The quantitative analysis showed that for seven participants the internalized social discourse expressions were most frequent, for five the agentic expressions were most frequent, and that for one the discourses were at equilibrium. The ubiquitous sub-themes manifested in the internalized social discourse were: victimhood (feelings of vulnerability and helplessness), survivorship (meaningless existence, despair and hopelessness), negative self-esteem and self-pathology (perception of the self as having pathological psychological problems), and denial/repression of the abuse. The ubiquitous sub-themes manifested in the agentic discourse were: positive self-image and sense of potency, hope, optimism and positive perception of life, and uprising against the parents and institutions that did not give support. The discussion is based on Butler’s concept of vulnerability, which suggests how to address the harms inflicted by incest without erasing aspects of the survivors’ agency and growth.
Article
Full-text available
This exploratory study addresses the existing gaps on the public perceptions of child sexual offending committed by women. Using thematic analysis, the study extracted, coded and analysed the comments ( N = 1,651) made by the general public to nine Daily Mail online newspaper articles published from 2018 to 2019, reporting the sentencing decisions of female sex offenders, who have been charged and found guilty with the offence of sexual activity with a child. From those comments, 170 coded themes were identified, and this amounted to 3,394 coded incidences. Unlike previous research, this study cross-examines public responses to different typologies of offending behaviour; teachers, mothers, same sex offenders, co-offenders and finally those who offended for financial gain. The impact of these typologies was analysed through key descriptive case variables, which were quantitively evaluated against the prominent themes that emerged. It found that while people demand equal sentencing decisions between male and female child sex offenders, this is limited by public perception when the abuser is an attractive female and, as a result, perceived as less harmful to the child, who is not seen no longer as a victim but as a ‘Lucky Boy’. Such preconceptions fuel shame, social stigma and stereotyping towards sexual exposure and prevents victims to disclose their abuse and achieve closure and justice.
Article
News media can shape public opinion about child adversity and influence the translation of research into public policy. Research about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress has increased dramatically in recent years, but little is known about how these concepts are covered in news media. We reviewed how newspapers in the United States have portrayed the consequences of, causes of, and solutions to address ACEs and toxic stress, examined trends in newspaper coverage, and assessed differences in coverage of ACEs versus toxic stress. Quantitative content analysis was conducted of 746 newspaper articles mentioning “adverse childhood experience(s)” and/or “toxic stress” published in 25 U.S. newspapers between January 1, 2014, and May 30, 2020. κ statistics of interrater reliability were calculated, and variables with κ ≥ .60 were retained for quantitative analysis. We found that newspaper coverage of ACEs and toxic stress increased dramatically between 2014 and 2018 and then sharply declined. Only 13.3% of articles mentioned both ACEs and toxic stress. There were many statistically significant ( p < .05) differences in the causes, consequences, and solutions identified in articles focused on ACEs versus toxic stress. Coverage of both concepts predominantly focused on consequences for individuals, not society. However, 54.6% of articles identified a structural cause of ACEs and/or toxic stress. Increased volume in newspaper coverage about ACEs and toxic stress could increase public awareness about the relationship between childhood adversity and adult outcomes. There is a need to portray ACEs and toxic stress as complementary concepts more coherently in news media.
Article
Full-text available
Purpose of Review We are reviewing recent research into the community integration of men convicted of a sexual offence and their (risk) management. This is a high-profile political issue that binds together research in psychology, criminology, politics, health, public health, and policy studies. The review will demonstrate that a multi-disciplinary, life course, EpiCrim-oriented approach is the most effective way of reducing re-offending and promoting desistance in this population. Recent Findings Research demonstrates that life course development, especially from psychology and criminology, has an impact on whether people sexually offend or not. Therefore, to understand sexual offending behaviour, we need to look at the aetiology of said behaviour from a nature and a nurture perspective. Therefore, we need to use an Epidemiological Criminology (a marriage of Public Health and criminology) approach that works at all four stages of the Socio-Ecological Model (SEM) (individual, interrelationship, community, and societal). The research encourages a person first approach, that we look at Adverse Childhood Experiences and past trauma in the lives of men who sexually offend and use this, in conjunction with strength-based approaches, to inclusively integrate them into society. Summary The prevention of sexual offending, both first time offending, and relapse prevention require a multi-level, multi-disciplinary approach. Successful desistance from sexual offending is as much about the community and society as it is about the individual.
Article
Full-text available
In 1996, the World Health Assembly declared violence a major public health issue. To follow up on this resolution, on October 3 this year, WHO released the first World Report on Violence and Health. The report analyses different types of violence including child abuse and neglect, youth violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, elder abuse, self-directed violence, and collective violence. For all these types of violence, the report explores the magnitude of the health and social effects, the risk and protective factors, and the types of prevention efforts that have been initiated. The launch of the report will be followed by a 1-year Global Campaign on Violence Prevention, focusing on implementation of the recommendations. This article summarises some of the main points of the world report.
Article
Full-text available
The media play an important role in practice, policy, and public perception of child sexual abuse, in part by the way in which news stories are framed. Child sexual abuse media coverage over the past 50 years can be divided into five time periods based on the types of stories that garnered news coverage and the ways in which public policy was changed. This systematic literature review of research on child sexual abuse media coverage across disciplines and geographic boundaries examines 16 studies published in the English language from 1995 to 2012. A seminal work is identified, citation network analysis is applied, and a framework model is developed.
Article
Full-text available
The main purpose of this study was to shed light on methodological problems in the content analysis of media frames. After a review of 5 common methods, we will present an alternative procedure that aims at improving reliability and validity. Based on the definition of frames advanced by R. M. Entman (1993), we propose that previously defined frame elements systematically group together in a specific way. This pattern of frame elements can be identified across several texts by means of cluster analysis. The proposed method is demonstrated with data on the coverage of the issue of biotechnology in The New York Times. It is concluded that the proposed method yields better results in terms of reliability and validity compared to previous methods.
Article
I am introducing the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior because we, as a nation, must address the significant public health challenges regarding the sexual health of our citizens. In recognition of these challenges, promoting responsible sexual behavior is included among the Surgeon General—s public health priorities and is also one of the Healthy People 2010 Ten Leading Health Indicators for the Nation. Although it is important to acknowledge the many positive aspects of sexuality, we also need to understand that there are undesirable consequences as well—alarmingly high levels of sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS infection, unintended pregnancy, abortion, sexual dysfunction, and sexual violence. These challenges can be met, but first we must find common ground and reach consensus on some important problems and their possible solutions. It is necessary to appreciate what sexual health is, that it is connected with both physical and mental health, and that it is important throughout the entire life span, not just the reproductive years. It is also important to recognize the responsibilities that individuals and communities have in protecting sexual health. The responsibility of well-informed adults as educators and role models for their children cannot be overstated. Issues around sexuality can be difficult to discuss—because they are personal and because there is great diversity in how they are perceived and approached. Yet, they greatly impact public health and, thus, it is time to begin that discussion and, to that end, this Surgeon General—s Call to Action is offered as a framework. During its development we received a wide range of input and have identified several areas of common ground. A major responsibility of the Surgeon General is to provide the best available science based information to the American people to assist in protecting and advancing the health and safety of our nation. This report represents another effort to meet that responsibility.
Article
For several years, child welfare advocates have claimed that the U.S. news media misrepresent child abuse and fail to highlight its societal dimensions. To investigate the accuracy of this diagnosis, the following study examines findings of a content analysis of child abuse coverage in major national and urban U.S. newspapers from 2000 to 2008. First, we determine how frequently newspapers covered the different types of child abuse. Second, we analyze whether child abuse has been framed as either an isolated phenomenon (episodic and individual frames) or a broadly systemic and public problem (thematic and societal frames). Third, we look for changes in coverage frequency and media frames over time. Findings are mixed: On one hand, different types of child abuse receive varying degrees of coverage, with sexual abuse receiving a disproportionately large amount; on the other hand, the topic of child abuse in general has predominantly been framed thematically as a problem that has societal causes and solutions. However, there was no clear pattern in the way these causes and solutions have been framed over the years. Based on these findings, we suggest that child welfare advocates should focus on communication goals other than influencing media frames.
Article
This study explores how the American news media frame the poverty issue, looking at the way the media present its causes and solutions. It also examines the notion of frame building, exploring the factors that may influence the media's selective uses of certain frames. Media attributions of responsibility are largely societal, focusing on the causes and solutions at the social rather than personal level. Liberal newspapers made more references than conservative papers to social causes and solutions. Television news is slightly less likely than newspapers to make social-level attributions.