Journalists: Take this free, online training on how to report rape cases

url-3This is awesome: Poynter has a free, online course for journalists wanting to learn more about reporting on sexual assaults.

The “Reporting on Sexual Violence” course costs $29.95 but is being offered for free, thanks to a grant from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. As a journalism major and former reporter, I can’t stress enough how important this is — so many times in newsrooms, it seems like both writers and editors have no idea how to tackle the very complex issue of rape.

Poynter gets that. Check out this excerpt from the training:

This self-directed course provides necessary context to understanding crimes of sexual violence that target individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It dispels the many myths surrounding sexually violent crimes and suggests strategies for telling the truth about sexual violence through accurate language, reporting, headlines and photos.

Compassionate-but-thorough coverage requires a wealth of background information as well as credible sources, so a rich resources section provides statistics, links to research and databases, and additional resources to facilitate reporting on sexual violence.

This course bridges the gaps in many reporters’ understanding of sexual violence, for example explaining the differences between prevention and risk reduction and explaining different types of sexual violence. It offers guidelines for interviewing survivors of sexual violence in a professional, compassionate manner and explains the roles played by video, audio and photographs in telling their stories.

Sounds pretty good, right? During a time when victim blaming often crops up in reporting by even the most prestigious publications, this seems like it should be a part of basic training for all journalists.

This is what the training promises journalists will learn:

  • How using euphemistic language can blame victims and perpetuate myths
  • To choose straightforward, honest, accurate language to describe crimes of sexual violence
  • How stereotypes about perpetrators of sexual violence interfere with prevention and community understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence
  • Techniques for letting survivors of sexual violence tell their stories in their own way and on their own time
  • Strategies for overcoming institutions’ “culture of silence” surrounding potential sexual violence and reporting on systematic failures that allow such crimes to occur
  • Ways to use audio, video and photographs to create accurate, ethical and compassionate stories
  • How to avoid predictable coverage, instead seeking under-covered angles such as preventing sexual violence, health-related effects of victimization or local treatment options for victims and/or offenders
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