***Warning*** This petition text contains references to sexual violence.
Right now, millions of sexual violence survivors are at risk for re-traumatization from the television programs they watch. But there’s one easy thing the FCC can do to stop that -- create a “sexual violence” content warning for television.
I was recently watching the new TV series Bates Motel, and was surprised to see a very graphic rape scene half-way through the episode. The title of the program and the information listed for the episode did not include information about a rape scene, nor was there a content warning specific to sexual violence at the beginning of the show. And it’s not just Bates Motel -- in the past year graphic scenes of sexual violence have appeared in The Walking Dead, Girls, Silent Witness, Game of Thrones, and other programs.
The picture you are seeing is of myself and my co-workers, friends and fellow survivors, Anna Perez and Christine Kobie. As survivors and advocates we understand how damaging this content can be to someone who is not expecting it and is not able to prepare for it. Survivors’ memories of their own assault can be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional reactions and physical reactions, especially in survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Millions of television viewers are sexual violence survivors. According to RAINN statistics, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That means that of the audience for the episode of Bates Motel which featured a rape scene, there were potentially over 450,000 survivors in the audience (assuming that out of the 4.6 million viewers, half were women and half were men). These survivors deserved a warning.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution -- The FCC, via the TV Parental Guidelines, should create a “sexual violence” content warning at the beginning of any television show that will be airing an episode with sexual violence.
Such a warning will empower survivors by giving them the choice on whether or not they want to watch, and if they do, they can prepare themselves for the scene. It will also allow families to decide what type of violent content they want to view. The FCC has already designated “fantasy violence” as a subset of violent content that affects viewers differently than other forms of violence, they need to do the same for sexual violence.
Please join us in asking the FCC to create a “sexual violence” content warning, including a resource for survivors like the RAINN 24-Hour Hotline (800) 656-HOPE, to be shown before programs with scenes of sexual violence.