Journalist, not judge

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When Erin Andrews was secretly filmed while undressing, she became the victim in the scenario. So why does the media treat her like a criminal? 

Erin Andrews, a sportscaster for ESPN, was filmed through a peephole in her hotel room by a stalker, Michael David Barrett, who then posted the footage online where it was viewed millions of times. 

Afterwards, ESPN asked Andrews to do an on-air interview to clear up rumours that it had been a publicity stunt. 

Sports blogs and tabloid magazines ran photos of her naked body on their pages. When the stalker tried to sell the video to TMZ, they refused, but didn’t report to the police that someone had tried to sell them naked footage of Erin Andrews. 

Collectively, these institutions ignored the trauma that Andrews underwent and failed to protect her from harm. 

Victims of sexual harassment and assault are often hounded by media outlets for a quote, especially when the case goes to court. Andrews went through this, as did the alleged survivors in the Jian Ghomeshi trial. When the media gets ahold of any high-profile harassment or assault case, victims must run a media obstacle course on the path to justice. 

This behaviour speaks to the larger problem of how survivors are treated in our society. Accusations of “asking for it” and general skepticism lead us to treat survivors of sexual assault differently than victims of other crimes. 

Take the Andrews case. Her attorney asked her if she’d ever been in a pornographic film, because that could be used against her. There shouldn’t be any connection between the two, and yet it’s just one example of how victims must prove their own innocence in court.

But the situation doesn’t end with a verdict. Whenever a sexual assault case is reported by the media, survivors must also prove their innocence to the entire world. 

As journalists, we’re neither the judge nor the jury — we’re here to report the truth, not decide it. We’re here to hold the world accountable, so make sure you’re holding the right person accountable for their actions. 

I’m just a student journalist, but I’ve accepted the responsibility of always reporting the truth, and with that comes the promise to minimize harm. 

Treating sexual assault survivors this way means that as journalists, we’re breaking that mandate. 

Bias and misinformation will from time to time creep into coverage. But, at the very least, it shouldn’t result in shaming victims for something that wasn’t their fault. 

Vishmayaa is one of The Journal’s Copy Editors. She’s a second-year Stage and Screen major.

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