Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes / Edition 1

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Overview

The national press has recently lavished coverage on several major sex-related scandals: the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and the Mike Tyson case. With each event came lurid stories pitting either a loose or a virginal woman against an unwilling or monstrous man. Such extreme coverage, argues Helen Benedict, perpetuates myths that are harmful to the victims of these crimes (and sometimes to the accused). With the rise in reported rapes, more such myth-mongering stories are bound to be seen in the future. In Virgin or Vamp, Benedict addresses the press's tendency to misrepresent rape, denigrate victims, and invade the privacy of its subjects, while also pointing out the press's critical role in informing and educating the public. In this timely book, Benedict draws on her experience as a reporter and professor of journalism to examine the print press's treatment of four prominent sex crimes from the past decade - the Rideout marital rape trial in Oregon, the Big Dan's pool table gang rape in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the "Preppy Murder" in New York, and the Central Park jogger rape. By analyzing the language of the original news stories and interviewing the original reporters, Benedict identifies the press's tendency to label victims as either virgins or vamps, a practice she condemns as misleading and harmful. For example, she finds that the press worked so hard at portraying Jennifer Levin, the victim of the "Preppy Murder," as a man-chasing vamp that it made her seem as responsible for her death as was her killer, Robert Chambers. Likewise, Benedict shows how the press depicted Greta Rideout as a hysterical wife who accused her husband of rape for revenge, rather than as a victim of domestic battery who eventually escaped - the truth of the case. Benedict also looks at other factors that perpetuate the misunderstanding of rape. For instance, she shows how the New York press presented the Central Park jogger rape
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195086652
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Helen Benedict is Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. Her articles on rape and sexual assault have been published widely in newspapers and magazines, and she is the author of several books, including Recovery: How to Survive Sexual Assault, Portraits in Print, and A World Like This.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Rape Myths, Language, and the Portrayal of Women in the Media 13
2 Sex Crimes in the Press: A Recent History 25
3 "A Policeman in Every Bedroom : The 1978-1979 Greta and John Rideout Marital Rape Case 43
4 "She Should Be Punished": The 1983-1984 New Bedford "Big Dan's" Gang Rape 89
5 "How Jennifer Courted Death": The 1986 Killing of Jennifer Levin 147
6 The Jogger and the Wolfpack: The 1989-1990 Central Park Jogger Case 189
7 Conclusion: How the Press Should Cover Sex Crimes 251
Notes 267
Bibliography 295
Index 301
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