transfer 20(3) » Öffentliche Kommunikation

I’m not sexist, but …

On the inconsistency of blame - or the presentation and framing of rape in media and the public's reactions

This study aims to better understand how rape is currently framed in media and how the public reacts to this. The exploratory study examines online news articles of US and German newspapers and the corresponding comments. A multilevel content analysis is undertaken, meaning: few articles and comparatively many comments, creating a hybrid form which combines qualitative as well as quantitative qualities. Attempting to deepen the understanding, frames were partitioned according to victim, perpetrator and rape.
The results show that the victim is often framed in a negative way, carrying the culpability; however, a novel, fragmental frame portrays victims more positively, from deserving of help to strong and self-sufficient. The perpetrator is depicted negatively when being othered, by means of ethnicity, culture or socio-economic status – if the culprit is erroneously portrayed as “one of us” he is usually framed as innocent and victimized. Finally, none of the frames includes the idea that sexual violence is enabled through structural gender inequalities. Commenters’ react more negatively towards all targets than positively, culminating in two out of three comments containing incivility. However, the classically negative framing of the victim directly was not mimicked or mirrored by commenters.