On March 8th the New York Times published a story by James C. McKinley Jr. titled "Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town." The assault it described was, indeed, heinous: an 11-year-old was gang raped in an abandoned trailer house by as many as 18 men, with suspects ranging in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old. The attack came to light because several of the suspects took cell phone video of the assault.
Also appalling was the way in which New York Times reporter James C. McKinley reported the victim blaming sentiments of members of the Texas community in which the rape occurred as truth. McKinley insinuated the young woman had it coming, writing, "They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."
Mr. McKinley also gave ink to community members who are more concerned about the impact raping a child will have on the suspects than being raped will have on the young victim. Mr. McKinley quoted Sheila Harrison as saying, "“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
1 in 4 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. A culture that blames victims for being raped - for what they were wearing, where they were, and who they were with - rather than blaming the rapist is a culture that tacitly condones rape. A society that is more concerned with how being held accountable for rape will impact the perpetrator than for the well being of the victim is a society that doesn't take rape seriously.
The New York Times contributed to this dangerous culture by publishing this article by Mr. McKinley without asking him to edit out his and community members' editorial victim blaming.
Tell the New York Times to issue a published apology for their coverage of this incident and publish an editorial from a victim's rights expert on how victim blaming in the media contributes to the prevalance of sexual assault. No one ever deserves to be raped and no victim should ever be told it was their fault. New York Times, we expect better. We demand better.
- Public Editor, The New York Times
Arthur S. Brisbane
- Executive Editor, The New York Times
- Publisher, The New York Times
Arthur Sulzberger Jr
I'm writing to request the New York Times print an apology for James McKinley's coverage of the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl ("Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town," March 8th, 2011), in which he insinuated she was to blame for being raped, and give op-ed space to a victim's rights expert to explain how such biased coverage contributes to the prevalence of sexual assault.
In his report on a heinous crime, James C. McKinley chose to use quotes from community members that insinuate that the child victim had it coming because "she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s." No one is ever to blame for being raped. If Mr. McKinley didn't understand that this is a common tactic used to undermine the seriousness of rape and the people who report it, his editor should have and insisted it be taken out of the piece.
1 in 4 American women will be assaulted in their lifetime. The New York Times is a respected publication with a large readership and has a responsibility to make sure the content they publish is unbiased and factual. Mr. McKinley's victim -blaming editorial addition to his piece does not meet that standard. Again, I respectfully request the New York Times print an apology and solicit an op-ed from an anti-rape expert to explain the dangers of victim-blaming in the media.
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