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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2000 September;41(3):189-204


language: Italian

Sexual assault and the Italian press: survey on daily newspaper reports in the years 1977, 1987, 1997

Marchiori E., Simioni A., Colombo G.


Background. Scientific literaturehas showed since the 1970s, that sexual violence is a factor triggering psychopathologies of varying severity; in parallel, rape is widely commented by mass media. Many studies have, however, shown inconsistencies between reports by the mass media and by research studies. In particular, rather than providing to cultural instruments to promoe consciousuess insight, the press seems to reflect habituation to the problem of violence. The aim of this study is to assess the characteristics of news items on sexual violence on women in the Italian press.
Methods. 972 articles dealing with rape were collected from three dailies, La Repubblica, L'Unità and Il Gazzettino during the three years 1977, 1987, 1997. Three hundred and sixty two of these were selected, one for each case, and assessed in terms of content analysis.
Results. In the three years, the number of news items on sexual assault increased, but not in parallel to the number of cases reported to the authorities. The terminology employed has become more explich and moving, while rape continues to be represented through stereotypes and platitudes. A low percentage of articles refer to victims' psychic distress and need for suppon and care. There are several differences in the variables considered by the three dailies.
Conclusions. The results, discussed in the light of contributions from the international literature, show how the Italian press does not help provide cultural instruments able to comprehend and deal with the problem of sexual violence.

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