Victim Media Advocacy:
How to Facilitate Sensitive and Respectful Treatment of Crime Victims
a. Benefits of Speaking to the Media
b. Risks of Speaking to the Media
From the perspective of crime victims and advocates, the news media often wield a “double-edged sword” in covering crime and victimization. Victim service providers should be aware of both the benefits, as well as risks, of media coverage of crime victims so they can explain options to victims and help them explore both the potentially positive and negative consequences of speaking to the media.
- The “power of the personal story” of victims that is conveyed through the media has been a strong, driving force in the growth of America’s victim assistance field.
- Coverage of individual victims can help other people understand what happens to crime victims and survivors and how it affects them and their loved ones—physically, emotionally, financially, socially, and spiritually.
- Media coverage can humanize crime and its impact on individuals, families, and communities.
- Speaking to the media can sometimes help validate victims who want their perspectives heard.
- Since alleged and convicted defendants and their counsel often speak to the media and give their side of the case, it can be helpful to balance these perspectives with those of the crime victim/survivor.
- Other victims and survivors who learn about victims’ experiences through the media may be inspired to report crimes and seek supportive services.
- Through victims speaking out, people learn that crime is not something that happens to “somebody else” but are reminded that crime can happen anywhere and to anybody.
- Public awareness and understanding about the plight of crime victims are enhanced every time a sensitive story about one victim’s experience is published or broadcast, which can lead to increased public support for victim assistance initiatives.
For some victims, the trauma of victimization can be compounded by speaking publicly about their experiences in the aftermath of a crime. It takes time to cope with the shock and trauma of being victimized and to participate in police investigations and criminal or juvenile justice processes. The detrimental mental health consequences of victimization are well documented. Media coverage in the wake of a crime can result in a “secondary victimization” that may exacerbate victims’ trauma and cause unnecessary additional harm. The shame that some victims feel, as well as the blame they sometimes feel from others, can be increased by untimely, inappropriate, or intrusive reporting.