How the Media Undermines Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Victims

This has been another long week.

But instead of the usual Trump nonsense, this week’s news cycle was filled with sexual assaults. Most were committed by Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein — although Ben Affleck managed to slip in there as well, not to mention Terry Crews revealed he was a victim.

Almost every news outlet has been covering the assaults non-stop. The problem? The language almost always undermines the victim.

Take a look at the following headlines from the week:

“Asia Argento accuses Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault”

“Hilarie Burton claims Weinstein protege Ben Affleck groped her breast on TRL”

“Harvey Weinstein faces barrage of fresh sexual assault allegations”

“The allegations of rape and harassment against Harvey Weinstein”

“Rapper Nelly dismisses rape allegations as false after his arrest”

Notice how many times they use the word “claims” or “allegations”? These words make it sound like it’s possible the sexual assaults did not happen. It leaves wiggle room and a bit of ambiguity.

We don’t use this language with any other crimes. Nobody ever says “Kim Kardashian claims she was burglarized” or “Gavin DeGraw says he was beaten up.” Of course not! That would be ridiculous!

So why do we do it with sex crimes? This is a physical assault. And lack of visible battle wounds doesn’t mean victims need to prove themselves.

We already have a problem in society with getting people to believe sexual assault victims. All you have to do is hop on Twitter and you’ll see a debate brewing over the believability of these victims.

And I’m not saying that a headline or two would change everyone’s minds. But it’s these little things that end up having an effect.

It’s time journalists take responsibility for their part and give victims what they’re owed: our support.

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.