20080307

Use of passive writing pervasive in reports about sexual assault

Use of passive voice when reporting sexual assault, as if it were the victim's fault, is unfortunately very common in the mainstream media. For those of you that are unsure of what passive sentences are read on:

Passive sentences are to be avoided: Beware of the use of "to be" and its conjugations (is, was, were, are, am). These often indicate a passive sentence, where the subject is acted upon instead of acting. Passivity makes for weak, unconvincing writing. Passivity is often the hallmark of someone trying to weasel out of something: "Mistakes were made" assigns no blame, while "I made a mistake" tells the world you're taking responsibility. It does not convey the action, it only suggests the effect. So avoid passive sentences.

Examples of the use of passive writing when reporting sexual assault:

Security upped after apartment assaults by Matt Culbertson and Jacqueline Pantos published on Friday, February 29, 2008
"On Sunday, a 20-year-old female ASU student was held down by three men and sexually assaulted by a fourth man in her apartment at Gateway, Tempe Police reported."
Armed heist at Bennett Valley jewelry store By DEREK J. MOORE THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A woman was raped after being kidnapped Feb. 7 from a shopping center parking lot across the street from the jewelry store.


The following example shows an affirmative writing style. Clearly the perpetrator is the subject of this sentence and article.

Police: Gunman in deadly store attack sexually assaulted victim Published on: Thursday, February 07, 2008
A gunman who killed five women at a suburban Chicago clothing store sexual assaulted one of his victims, police said Wednesday as the attack's lone survivor commented publicly for the first time.

The media often does this to subtly shift the focus on the victim of the crime and not the perpetrator.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate that you viewed this content and that it was worth enough thought for you to comment about it.