On the Responsibility of Proper Reporting on Sexual Abuse

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

October 31, 2018

Reporters have a tough job. They need to churn out content quickly, accurately, and often on several different subjects over the course of the day. Reporters also have a powerful job in that their writing can affect the way people think about issues of the day and the way readers talk about those issues, whether gathering around the water cooler or dinner table.

But as the famous quote goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Some recent reporting around a case of sexual abuse in Ohio has brought up an example of a subtle – yet pernicious – error in reporting. In this case, a priest in the Diocese of Steubenville spent years grooming and sexually abusing a young girl. The sexual abuse was revealed when the victim, now 17, became pregnant. Yet several articles on the subject have instead referred to this case as “a relationship” that “lasted three years.”

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