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Role of the Media in Domestic Violence Cases: A Journalist's Perspective

NCJ Number
Albany Law Review Volume: 58 Issue: 4 Dated: (1995) Pages: 1235-1244
S McCarthy
Date Published
10 pages
This article examines how the media have covered two of the biggest news stories involving domestic violence in recent years.
Most Americans today recognize that the physical abuse of women by their husbands and lovers is a widespread phenomenon and most agree that it is a bad thing. But are the media doing all they can to raise consciousness about domestic violence? What are the strengths and weaknesses in this area? The author begins her study of how the media cover major domestic violence cases with the matter of Lorena and John Bobbitt and then considers the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband's penis after spending years in an abusive marriage. This case had the potential to provoke thoughtful discussion about sexual abuse, domestic violence, unhealthy female dependence upon men, the problems of immigrant women in this country, and the double standard applied to claims of self-defense by women and men. But the news coverage never seriously examined any of these issues, and instead treated the story as a joke, reducing a tragedy to slapstick. In contrast, domestic violence received much more serious treatment in the Nicole and O.J. Simpson story. Along with provoking public discussion about the national epidemic of domestic violence, this case also put a face on the issue. Media coverage of the two cases suggests that the public is today more aware of domestic violence than was the case 15 or 20 years ago. However, it also suggests that media coverage of such cases depends much on the socioeconomic status of the parties involved. Footnotes


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