Behind the Steel Curtain: Examining News Coverage of a Rape Allegation Case


Social Work

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Type of Paper/Work

Clinical research paper


Lisa Kiesel


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), one in five women will be the victim of rape in her lifetime. Previous research has also found that the media has the power to influence public opinion on social issues, such as sexual violence. The purpose of this project was to examine the television news coverage of a rape allegation case involving a perpetrator who is a professional football player. Six news clips from Fox News and six news clips from ABC News were analyzed using a critical discourse analysis framework. Textual data from the interview transcripts were analyzed using a coding scheme based on themes found in the existing literature and concepts related to critical discourse and feminist theories. The study also included a visual analysis of the imagery used in the news clips. The findings indicated, overall, the media portrayed the alleged perpetrator as innocent by shifting blame to the victim. In addition, there was a pattern of discrepancy between visual imagery and spoken language in the news clips. These findings underscore the fact that the media's portrayal of rape often blames victims for their attack, which alleviates perpetrator responsibility. In order to address the problem of sexual violence on a macro level, social workers must be aware of the way the television news media depicts this social issue.


rape, media, critical discourse analysis, sexual violence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.