By Jonathan Black
Sexual violence on campus is not going unnoticed by university press. It’s one of the most discussed and highlighted topics of they past couple years — since The Daily Tar Heel published its famous “Rape is a violent crime” front page editorial.
So it was no surprise that one of the keynotes at this year’s convention was a panel discussion about covering sexual assault, led by Erica Perel, adviser for The Daily Tar Heel, called ““Campus Journalists Can Help Stop Campus Rape.” Obviously, this is a very important topic and each of the panelist brought their own form of logic or pathos to make the discussion interesting.
The panel was made up of George Joseph, a Columbia University student and writer at Jacobin Magazine; Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, co-founder of No Red Tape and a student at Columbia; and Sara Gregory, investigative reporting fellow at the Student Press Law Center.
One of the biggest takeaways is a reporter must be careful in not crossing boundaries. They need to have a frank discussion with the survivor in which they the reporter learns what is and is not appropriate and how often they can contact the survivor.
“There’s something about having a reporter call you four times that can remind of you of someone stalking you,” Gregory said.
I stand at a weird place with sexual assault coverage. It’s done a lot of good at the world, but I also worry about people trying to take advantage of it. Impactful, emotional stories about sexual assault can make the rounds and get a lot of reads. But at what cost to the survivor?
I’ve had a lot of discussions with fellow editors about the topic, and I worry that someone will go finding a story on sexual assault for all the wrong reasons. It’s easy to get carried anyway. Remember to take a step back and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and it’s not going to cause anymore harm to the survivor.