A Guide for Journalists & Editors by Know Your IX

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The Washington Examiner posted an article presenting Know Your IX’s new guide for journalists and editors writing about gender-based violence on college campuses. Know Your IX developed a comprehensive guide for journalists and editors to utilize to describe gender-based violence on college campuses with accuracy and objectivity. The following suggestions and information is provided in the Know Your IX guide:

Think critically about stories that you’re choosing to showcase.

  • Reflect stories from the LGBTQ community and women of color.
  • Cover stories not only about the “elite” universities, rather highlight stories at public universities, community colleges, and technical colleges.
  • Discuss other forms of gender-based violence, such as, dating violence, stalking and intimate partner violence.

Contextualize gender-based violence.

  • Integrate and emphasize structural and institutional failings along with individual stories.

Remember: Title IX is about civil rights, not criminal justice.

  • You can refer to Know Your Title IX: “Why schools handle sexual violence reports” guide. Reporting does not have to go through law enforcement, there are other reporting resources available.

Avoid language that places the burden (grammatical or otherwise) on the survivor.

  • Do not use a passive voice, rather use an active voice when talking about sexual violence.
  • Avoid negative connotations. Instead of referring to the survivor as “the accuser”, use “the survivor”, “the student” or having a pseudonym. And, instead of referring to the perpetrator as the “accused”, you can use “perpetrator” or “rapist”.

Be wary of using gendered physical descriptions or observations.

  • Providing descriptive information about the student’s physical appearance and clothing can distract the reader from the story at hand. Describing the student’s appearance gives in to rape myths concerning clothing choices.

Respect the survivor’s narrative.

  • Use direct quotes from survivors, rather than paraphrasing their account, as much as possible.
  • Respect the language and terminology that the survivor uses.
  • Don’t sensationalize.
  • Allow the survivor to have prior review.

 Don’t give false rape reports and sexual equal weight; this is false equivalency.

  • Writing about false reports can lead to victim-blaming attitudes. False reports are rare, it can be misleading.

Be cognizant of, and sensitive to, mental health issues that can occur as a result of sexual assault.

  • 31% of female rape survivors develop PTSD symptoms during their lifetime and 30% experience a major depressive episode according to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center.
  • Be aware of the serious mental health consequences surrounding sexual assault and possible triggers to the survivor.

Be a respectful interviewer.

  • Know Your Title IX refers to the Chicago Taskforce’s guide on how to conduct interviews with a survivor.
  • Contact the survivor ahead of time and ask to talk to them about their experiences.
  • Respect boundaries.
  • Respect their right to decline an interview.

 

 

I am an intern for CALCASA’s Campus Program. Current California State University Social Work graduate student.

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