Reporting on Sexual Violence

Course Overview

Reporting on Sexual Violence
Self-Directed Course
This $29.95 course is free thanks to a grant by National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Time Estimate:
In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

Crimes of sexual violence are among the most underreported crimes in our society. Compounding the problem is that media coverage of these crimes often perpetuates stereotypes and cultural myths, rather than providing context and increasing understanding or awareness of sexual violence.

One in five people will experience sexual violence; reporters cannot avoid this complex and challenging topic. But covering sexual violence requires context — an understanding of who perpetrates these crimes, who is affected, and how sexual violence can be prevented. It also requires sensitivity, compassion and professionalism, both in interviewing survivors and in choosing the words to honestly and clearly describe these crimes.

This self-directed course provides necessary context to understanding crimes of sexual violence that target individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It dispels the many myths surrounding sexually violent crimes and suggests strategies for telling the truth about sexual violence through accurate language, reporting, headlines and photos.

Compassionate-but-thorough coverage requires a wealth of background information as well as credible sources, so a rich resources section provides statistics, links to research and databases, and additional resources to facilitate reporting on sexual violence.

This course bridges the gaps in many reporters' understanding of sexual violence, for example explaining the differences between prevention and risk reduction and explaining different types of sexual violence. It offers guidelines for interviewing survivors of sexual violence in a professional, compassionate manner and explains the roles played by video, audio and photographs in telling their stories.

What Will I Learn:
  • How using euphemistic language can blame victims and perpetuate myths
  • To choose straightforward, honest, accurate language to describe crimes of sexual violence
  • How stereotypes about perpetrators of sexual violence interfere with prevention and community understanding of the prevalence of sexual violence
  • Techniques for letting survivors of sexual violence tell their stories in their own way and on their own time
  • Strategies for overcoming institutions' "culture of silence" surrounding potential sexual violence and reporting on systematic failures that allow such crimes to occur
  • Ways to use audio, video and photographs to create accurate, ethical and compassionate stories
  • How to avoid predictable coverage, instead seeking under-covered angles such as preventing sexual violence, health-related effects of victimization or local treatment options for victims and/or offenders
Who should take this course:

Print, online and broadcast journalists (including reporters, producers, editors, copy editors, designers, photojournalists, bloggers and social media users) working on varied beats, journalism students, educators, sexual violence prevention advocates and general public. This course will help everyone to gain a better understanding of sexual violence.

Course Instructors:

Tracy Cox

Tracy Cox is the Communications Director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Her job encompasses leading the Communications Department, creating NSVRC publications and working with members of the media to convey timely information about sexual violence prevention. Before joining the NSVRC in 2010, Cox’s career focused on print media and graphic design.

For more than a decade, she was an award-winning designer/copy editor at newspapers including The Tuscaloosa News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Patriot-News.

Mark J. Miller

Mark J. Miller has written for American Journalism Review, Presstime, Crain's BtoB's Media Business, Folio: magazine and Digital Magazine News as well as Glamour, Details, The Washington Post,, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Runner's World, among many others.


National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape in 2000, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) identifies, develops and disseminates resources regarding all aspects of sexual violence prevention and intervention.

In addition to having the world’s largest special collection library on the topic of sexual violence, NSVRC’s activities include training and technical assistance, referrals, consultation, systems advocacy, capacity-building, integrating research findings with community-based projects, coordinating Sexual Assault Awareness Month, co-sponsoring national conferences and events, and creating web-based and social networking resources.