Rape read

By Tammy Sutherns

I was reading a story on News 24 about a teenager who was passed out at a party and was gang raped by her classmates who videoed the whole thing. The rape survivor is 16-years-old.

The article is titled “Drunk’ teen gang raped by classmates.” Someone posted a very interesting comment afterwards questioning this headline and I agree. The comment said something a long the lines of ‘drunk teenager’ implies she deserved to be raped. In my opinion, surely the headline should focus on the video footage and the classmates? Starting off a headline with ‘drunk teenager’ implies that the story is a negative one about said teenager.

If I was the journalist on this piece, my heading would be: “Classmates gang-rape passed out teenager” or “Classmates video gang-rape”. Surely the horrors of that are more important than how the teenager came to be passed out for a headline of the story? And if you read on, you see that it hasn’t even been established that she was drunk.

I get that web journalism has to be quick and immediate and media companies want to get hits on their articles. But this heading is all wrong and needs to be re-examined because it’s confusing two issues – rape and being drunk. While it is important that we cover underage drinking, I feel it pales in comparison to five teenagers raping a classmate and then circulating the footage like it is some kind of joke.

Have we become so desensitized to rape that it falls in the same sentence as being drunk?


2 thoughts on “Rape read”

  1. I couldn’t agree more on your take on the headline. As much as it hurts to say this, I think sometimes as journalists and editors we forget that our ‘subjects’ are human too.

    We push so hard to meet deadline that we don’t necessarily stop and think.


  2. Desensitized is exactly the right word. And it’s sad. It’s sad that rape jokes enter my Facebook timeline or crop up around a braai, that corporates use rape as a marketing (that’s you, Durex!) tactic and it is even sadder when journalists (or rather the media houses behind them), who one would hope would be more sensitive to the issues facing our country, become part of it all.

    News24, for me, has become my least favourite news source. The inane comments section on just about every news article is testament to their ability to attract readers who, unknowingly or not, are looking for sensationalism. My opinion.


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