Our View: The importance of media fully covering sexual assault cases

Published by adviser, Author: The Rocket, Date: November 13, 2014

It has come to our attention by means of social media, public comment and recent letters to the editor that the front-page story in the Nov. 7 issue of The Rocket, “SRU student threatens ex-girlfriend’s life,” may have caused some readers to suffer from negative emotions from previous traumatic experiences linked back to the graphic nature of the subject matter and the content presented. We as a staff regret that any such emotions were experienced. In response, a disclaimer has been included in the online version of the article.

Know that it was with careful consideration we decided to include the components of the story present in the article. While graphic in nature, the details elaborated on the important issue of sexual assault in society. 

This was not only an allegedly physically abusive boyfriend. He was charged with indecently assaulting a victim and this charge is not one that should be swept under the rug. Neglecting this would be a disservice to the public and to the reality of the situation.

It was not by any means our intention to sensationalize this component of the article, rather to bring awareness of how serious this problem is while reporting on the facts. 

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed a lack of understanding by students in terms of what constitutes sexual assault. Both males and females were found to have a very limited definition for the term that showed insufficient education on the topic. 

This was one reason why we made the decision to quote directly from the police report while choosing to redact the victim’s name, ensuring that solely the facts were presented in an effort to educate readers and sparing her from any further negative experience as best as possible. 

Informing the public is always at the forefront of a newspaper’s goal. It oftentimes brings to light the best and the worst in society.  It is the responsibility of a newspaper staff to offer coverage to the public in a full and unbiased manner.

That being said, it is never desired to do harm to readers, simply to make them aware of the realities, both good and bad, and provide them with sufficient facts to develop an educated opinion. 

Sexual assault is not something anyone wants to see or think about. It is one of the most indecent, vile and repulsive of crimes. It’s not something we like to report, but pretending that it is not there or just hoping it will go away solves nothing. It is something we NEED to report on. 

We are deeply sorry for what the victim and all victims of sexual assault had to experience.

Please be aware that Slippery Rock University offers a number of services for victims of sexual assault both on and off campus. For more information please visit http://www.sru.edu/studentlife/womenscenter/Pages/violence.aspx.


  1. Here’s the thing: no one ever said you shouldn’t cover sexual assault. Everyone is simply saying that including the gruesome details of the incident was superfluous and harmful to the victim. And you quoting that MIT study is just plain irrelevant. Stop acting like you’re performing some great social deed by telling everyone exactly how her body was violated. The lengths this paper has gone to in order to avoid making a real apology is pathetic. You’re wrong. Just print ”we’re wrong’ — that’s it. Just say you’re wrong.

  2. There are ways to report and shed light on the horrible epidemic of sexual violence in our culture without going to such extreme and unethical measures. It does not matter that you redacted the victim’s name… you still printed her boyfriend’s name. Anyone that knows the victim or the offender could put two and two together, and now they know all the horrific details of how she was violated and demeaned as well. This only further hurts the victim and is just in poor taste, plain and simple. As an alumnus of SRU, this horrifies me. SRU is where I first became passionate about feminism and women’s issues! You should be ashamed. Stop making excuses, and just apologize already.

  3. First, you embarrass a victim of sexual assault by giving out every detail, including things that identify her specifically, and then you refuse to apologize for the actual mistake you made by directing our attention away from any of the actual complaints. You aided in the ruining of a girl’s life, and now you won’t even own up to it. If the staff of this student-run paper cannot handle the responsibility of proper journalism, then those responsible for the original article, this “apology,” and those who supervise both, need removed. You cannot continue to be this ignorant or insulting, intentionally or not.

  4. The fact is that this is the most poor excuse for an “apology” that I’ve ever seen. As stated previously, this is just embarrassing. I feel ashamed to say I’m part of this school because of these actions. Again, like previously stated it’s not hard to put two and two together to figure out who this girl is so the fact that you may have left her name out is irrelevant. Yes you can cover the issue of sexual assault, but the details that went into this article was ridiculous and unnecessary. The fact that you people actually approved putting these details into this was even more disturbing. There’s absolutely no part of that that is okay. Informing is fine, violating someone is not fine. The board should be ashamed of themselves, as should Haley Barnes be.

  5. The fact that you are apogizing for something that was not the main issue shows the lack of tact and morality present in the current paper. It is obvious that the true nature of the issue is not grasped by those who created it, and they need to come to terms of what they have done. There is a pride issue evident here, and as they have refused to apologize for the nature of it, I hope that serious consequences will be awarded to those involved. I see this as an utter disgrace to journalism and a sorry attempt to make things okay without a real motivation to apologize other than by saving face.

  6. Clearly you fully misunderstood the outrage illicited by the first article. Sexual assault on campuses is rampant an absolutely should be brought to light, and there’s no one saying you shouldn’t have covered sexual assault. What you fail to realize, is the way in which the extremely delicate topic was horrifying. In addition to having to deal with the trauma of a sexual assault, this young woman now has to face the fact that all of her peers know the very personal a traumatic details of her assault. It is appaling.

    This is not an apology. It’s a poor attempt at justifying behavior that can not be justified

  7. Lets take a step back. Yes, perhaps some readers were offended by this article due to past sexual trauma and etc. You apologized for that, good on you guys. You probably should have thought of that.

    You see, my problem (and probably others’ as well) with this entire debacle is not that you guys covered a sexual assault. Every publication has probably covered sexual assault in some form, its nothing groundbreaking, and some wouldn’t even call it controversial in today’s media. People are pissed because of how The Rocket’s staff has handled their peers reaction to their content! You guys are entirely made up of students, but do you really lack the moral capacity for what you’ve done? Do you skate by your ethical responsibilities, even as your fellow students point them out to you? You are just like us; not exempt from your actions behind a seemingly classless editorial…

    It’s not a blemish on The Rocket to issue an apology. (I mean, it probably will be now, but you guys kinda dug your own hole…) Most publications have done them countless times before. Be responsible. Think.

    The front-page story in the Nov. 7 issue of The Rocket, “SRU student threatens ex-girlfriend’s life,” is a tasteless piece of plagiarism. The copy-and-pasted police report was far more gruesome than required, especially for the front page! The staff must realize this… Do you have pride in your paper? Is that what holds you back from doing the right thing? The integrity of a student-run editorial is NOT more important than the respect of a victim, and I literally plead you to understand this!


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