Is Widespread Coverage of Sexual Violence Traumatic To Survivors?
For someone who has undergone any form of sexual assault, the incessant coverage of sexual crimes is nothing short of horror. Imagine having to read about numerous similar experiences with grotesque details, which hit home eerily close.
Speaking to The New York Times, Dr Christine Nicholson, a Seattle-based clinical psychologist said that victims of sexual violence, women and men included, are struggling to cope with the rapid pace of news that can provoke flashbacks to their own experiences. “It’s a very difficult time,” she said. “I’m having people call me after hours where they’re just feeling meltdowns and a sense of hopelessness.”
Living in India, consumption of news on rape and molestation has become a routine part of our lives. We flip through the news channels and newspapers feeling worried, dejected and angry towards the state of sexual safety in India.
But does anyone ever stop and think what kind of impact does such coverage have on survivors of sexual crimes?
Let’s take measures to ensure the mental well-being of sexual assault survivors
Living in the age of connectivity, access to breaking news at a click may not be a boon for many. While there was choice earlier to switch off the news or not read newspapers if the content affects you, it is not that easier to disconnect today. News coverage is everywhere. Add to the grimy news coverage that is exclusive to our country. With graphic details and shoddy animation, often news channels cross a limit they shouldn’t and inflict people with details of a crime that are disturbing and painful to watch.
- According to a Seattle-based clinical psychologist, victims of sexual violence are struggling to cope with the rapid pace of news that can provoke flashbacks to their own experiences.
- Whether you get justice or not, sexual crimes affect your psyche irreversibly. The trauma stays, so does the fear, shame and panic associated with the ordeal.
- The incessant news coverage of sexual crimes may force survivors to relive their ordeal. Often resulting in anxiety, stress and a sense of helplessness.
That is how an average person feels. Now imagine being a survivor and having to read about someone else’s ordeal day in day out, every waking minute of your life. There is no escaping the conversation about a Kathua or Unnao rape case. From news to social media, to even your peers, it surrounds you. How traumatising it must be for a survivor of a sexual crime to relive his or her own ordeal again and again. Because whether you get justice or not, sexual crimes affect your psyche irreversibly. The trauma stays, so does the fear, shame and panic associate with the ordeal.
Yes, the media coverage of sexual crimes is extremely important. People deserve to know the kind of menace such crimes are to our society.
Besides repeated coverage in news and mentions on social media, ensures that authorities feel the heat, and work harder to bring the criminals of sexual assaults to justice. It is courtesy of numerous #MeToo stories shared on social media, that we are finally talking about crimes like harassment and rape so openly. That survivors are finding their voice and public support. It is exposing so many lecherous men, who would have gone about their business, damaging lives of people further, by preying upon them.
But then we need to form support groups to help survivors cope with this onslaught of news related to sexual crimes. Merely getting them justice isn’t enough, we need to help them readjust and acclimatise in life post their traumatic experience. Perhaps authorities and NGOs should consider setting up therapy sessions for survivors to help them cope better. Hopefully, our love and support will help ease their suffering.
Picture Credit: NY Times
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.