Women's College Research Institute

Jump to body content

Global media coverage of sex assault crimes skewed

Story from Connect, May 27, 2013


janice du montHeadline-grabbing sex assault stories often highlight the most horrendous cases, which are not reflective of the full picture of sexual violence throughout most of the world, according to a newly-released editorial by Women’s College Research Institute’s Dr. Janice Du Mont and Trent University’s Dr. Deborah White.

The editorial, published in the Journal of Public Health, says these types of sexual assaults are relatively rare. The authors suggest that in most cases, in non-conflict settings, the assault is committed by a lone male who is known to the victim.

“A woman shouldn’t have to be brutally beaten with a metal rod by a group of men or have the act posted on social media for the world to care about sexual violence against women,” says Dr. Du Mont. “Everyday victimizations should be part of the conversation to bring about meaningful policy changes that address this insidious problem.”

Sexual violence is by no means solely a problem of developing countries. A 2010 population-based study found 18 per cent of women in the U.S. were the victim of rape, while 27 per cent had experienced other forms of unwanted sexual contact, the authors note.

Irrespective of the geographic region, women are frequently blamed for their own victimizations.

“Although sex assault is often underreported, it is a human rights and public health problem that affects women globally regardless of culture or socioeconomic status,” Dr. Du Mont says. “For that reason, changing incorrect beliefs and attitudes about rape and raped women is important in helping the public understand not only the realities of sexual violence, but its psychological, physical, social and economic costs as well.”

While many sexual assaults do not result in serious physical injuries, health issues can result. What’s more, the direct and indirect costs of worldwide sexual violence amount to billions of dollars annually, the authors add.

Jump to top page
  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

  • A member of:
  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)