Monday 23 October 2017

Victim support charity calls for guidelines on how media covers rape issues

Noeline Blackwell called for editors and journalists to collaborate with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Noeline Blackwell called for editors and journalists to collaborate with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

The head of a victims' support charity has called for guidelines on how the media cover the issue of rape.

Noeline Blackwell, c hief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, called for editors and journalists to collaborate with the organisation after broadcaster George Hook made controversial remarks about a trial in Britain.

The Newstalk presenter apologised after questioning "personal responsibility" when discussing the case of a 19-year-woman who alleged she was raped by a former member of the British swim team.

Ms Blackwell said remarks about where blame lies could stop other victims coming forward.

She said: "What we'd probably say is there's a need to build awareness of the realities of rape and sexual violence and criminality.

"Is it clearly understood that sex without consent is rape and that a sexual contact with consent is sex abuse?

"If you were at that stage as a baseline then everything else would flow from that.

"If a person has sex with someone without consent they are committing the rape. That deals with the notion that the victim has responsibility for the rape."

Ms Blackwell added: " Rape is only caused by rapists."

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said it had been considering calling for guidelines in the media.

It said it deals with queries from both journalists and dramatists over how a case or storyline should be covered appropriately and sensitively.

Ms Blackwell said guidelines would also be useful for defining acceptable language, reporting court cases and dealing with initial reports of investigations into rape.

She said the initiative should be done in conjunction with media rather than by trying to impose rules.

Mr Hook made his remarks during his High Noon programme last Friday. He apologised on Saturday in a statement issued by Newstalk.

The station's managing editor Patricia Monahan also issued an unreserved apology over the remarks and said they were "totally wrong and inappropriate and should never have been made".

In a statement Mr Hook said: "I wish to apologise unreservedly for comments I made about rape on my radio programme on Newstalk yesterday.

"It was unacceptable to suggest in any way that blame could be attributed to victims of rape.

"I apologise for the comments which caused hurt and offence, and for this I am truly sorry."

Press Association

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