Twice Hurt: How Newspaper Coverage May Reduce Empathy and Engender Blame for Female Victims of Crime

Abstract

In a content analysis of 148 newspaper articles we examined whether victims of violent crime (excluding sex crimes) are treated differently according to their gender. Articles taken from 4 newspapers showed that accounts of violent crime personalize male victims more than female victims: more personal information was included about male victims, and males were significantly more likely to be referred to by name rather than by a noun (“the victi”) or pronoun. In a second study we investigated whether such treatment could affect both empathy for the victim and victim blame. Participants read an account of a murder that manipulated victim gender, degree of personal information, and the manner in which the victim was described. Empathy for the victim was increased across victim gender by both inclusion of personal information and referring to the victim by name. Victim blame was also reduced by the inclusion of personal information. Implications of how the news media may subtly reduce empathy and engender blame for female victims are discussed.

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Anastasio, P.A., Costa, D.M. Twice Hurt: How Newspaper Coverage May Reduce Empathy and Engender Blame for Female Victims of Crime. Sex Roles 51, 535–542 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-004-5463-7

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  • media
  • news
  • victim gender
  • victim blame
  • empathy