Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rape and TV: Desensitizing Viewers and Trivializing Victims

By Gregory Allen

A recent article published in USA Today (Issue December 15, 2011) provided readers with rape statistics found in a new study released by the CDC. The first line of the article, written by Janice Lloyd, reads, "A major government study examining sexual violence in the USA reports the majority of the victims have serious physical and mental health consequences that can last a lifetime."

Basically: rape causes mental and physical harm that lasts longer than simply the duration of the assault. This isn't common sense for Americans, especially those who read the paper?

It seems hard to believe that literate Americans need be instructed that "38% had difficulty sleeping" after experiencing sexual violence. The article also enlightened readers with findings of the study, which reported, "Violence often begins at an early age and commonly leads to negative health consequences across the life span."

These findings might appear blatant and common sense, yet readers may not be aware of sufficiently committed to understanding the affects of sexual violence. And perhaps more disturbing, American television viewers may be encouraged not to take sexual violence seriously, as motivated by programs such as
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Television programs like Law and Order: SVU trivialize victims of sexual abuse to gain ratings and maintain an audience whose only concern is the traumatic and graphic incident itself, instead of the repercussions of sexual violence. Viewers are desensitized when they are constantly exposed to a stimulus, and those instructed to be entertained by something as sexual violence, might not only be less likely to care about the victims of such assaults, they may also be more likely to emulate this behavior if its consequences are stripped of meaning.

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