Raliance Media Summit & RALLYs Awards

By Julie Patrick, National Partners Liaison at Raliance

Amanda Hess speaks at the Raliance Media Summit

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, journalists and sexual assault experts came to the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, DC to celebrate ground-breaking media coverage on sexual violence. The event was made possible by Raliance in partnership with The Poynter Institute for Media Studies and through sponsorship by the NFL and the Glover Park Group. The goal of the day was to discuss ways to move the needle on how the public understands sexual violence.

Journalism is both strong and weak

In her opening remarks at the Raliance Media Summit, Poynter’s Kelly McBride noted current journalism on sexual violence is both strong and weak. Emerging new voices are helping to strengthen the national dialogue on sexual violence; weak local reporting, however, has not kept pace with this robust national conversation. Local communities are generally less likely to cover sexual violence. The RALLYs Awards focused on exceptions to this trend in local reporting, honoring exceptional examples of local, state, and national coverage. It’s no wonder Poynter’s Reporting on Sexual Violence with NSVRC remains one of the top online trainings offered. 

The stories we tell and the stories we don’t

In her keynote address, New York Times David Carr Fellow Amanda Hess discussed how better reporting illuminates real life as well as sexual violence experiences. She first emphasized listening to victims—all kinds of victims—and not simply reporting on the most sensational details of their story. Second, she encouraged a deeper dive into the dynamics of sexual violence in our culture and society to bring forward the narrative tension. 

“What would journalism look like if it accurately reflected the whole scope of sexual violence? We would see more working-class victims, elderly victims, some male victims, too. We would read stories about abuse committed not just by strangers or sadistic frat boys but by family members and committed partners, not just in elite colleges but in detention facilities.”

Safety versus health

Discussion helped move insights forward. Advocacy groups have a significant role to play shaping the hook reporters need for stories about significant issues. Instead of focusing on the crime alone, advocates can encourage reporters to focus on prevention as well as the broader social context that allows sexual violence to occur. The group saw key areas of future reporting focusing on sexual assault and the trans community; healthcare; and how sexual violence impacts youth. This includes how sexual violence and solutions to sexual violence are framed. When solutions are discussed as a community or public safety issue, reporters often turn to the criminal justice system for answers. What we know is that over-reliance on the criminal justice system to fix sexual violence stops us from making the small changes – like discussions of consent and progressive sex education – that prevent it. When it’s a matter of community or public health, we see public health solutions and more key leaders to create those solutions. 

Changing the landscape

Raliance remains committed to changing the conversation about sexual violence by working closely with the news media and promoting new voices to help shape this national dialogue on sexual violence and solutions. Now more than ever, sexual assault experts must work more closely with the news media and vice versa. To learn more about strategies, read the recommendations for both journalists and advocates in Issue 22