Representations of rape victims in the media

The issue of rape is still largely ignored in society. There has been little coverage of rape in the media and victims often remain unwilling to report or openly discuss their experiences. In this presentation I assess theories of social attitudes towards and media representations of rape victims. I shall focus on the concerns of the anti-rape and women’s liberation movements. The anti-rape movement which first appeared in the early twentieth century had little success before the development of second-wave feminism of the early 1960s. During this time, the anti-rape movement was met with support from the women’s liberation movement.

I am concerned with the question of whether the aforementioned social forces have contributed to a change in representations of rape victims in the media. Discourse and textual analysis of two Hollywood films released in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed that rape victims have been given a space in the media. This was a key factor which the abovementioned social forces had campaigned to achieve. Referring to film reviewers and theorists, I argue that they were successful. Whether these changes have prevailed is more difficult to establish. However, I propose that the media has taken into account the seriousness of rape in the context of the anti-rape and women’s liberation movements.

Elena Lynch

4th Year Sociology (with International Study Year) BA





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