Blog RSS

Category: Feminism, Politics, Media, Violence against Women

What's the Difference Between Sandusky's Victims and Cain's?

| November 10, 2011

The scandal at Penn State involving the molestation and rape of young boys has attracted a lot of attention from the media, as it should. But the focus of the story is not where it should be: on the crime and the accused. Instead, the media is fixated on Coach Joe Paterno and where he’ll go next. Sexual misconduct of any kind should never be tolerated, and it is the media’s job to focus on the criminal acts committed by Jerry Sandusky and those who protected him. Reading about Sandusky and his victims it’s interesting to notice the vast difference between how the media are handling his story compared to the recent coverage of Sharon Bialeck, the woman who said Herman Cain sexually assaulted her? Why is the coverage of sexual misconduct different when the victims are women or girls as opposed to boys?

For starters questions were never raised about what the boys were wearing or what their behavior was like leading up to the incidents with Sandusky. Never did anyone suggest that they had somehow caused this or “asked for it.” Their claims were taken seriously. Yet the accusers against Herman Cain have faced much scrutiny and opposition, by Cain, his supporters, and by members of the media. After Karen Kraushaar identified herself as one of the victims, she faced questions about another workplace complaint she had filed, and on that same day Rush Limbaugh talked about her “pattern of whining.” This suggests that women are expected to keep quiet after being a victim of sexual harassment, and not make a big deal out of it. Women’s claims, like Kraushaar’s, are belittled. Cain’s lawyer, L. Lin Wood, has even warned other women thinking of coming forward with accusations to “think twice.” Women are constantly told to just shut up.

Furthermore, instead of focus being on what Cain’s alleged sexual misconduct has done to the victims, the media is focusing instead on the safety of Cain’s campaign. One reporter, Lindsey Boerma, from CBS News said “This isn’t exactly what his campaign needs right now.” It wasn’t exactly what the victims needed, either. Media coverage of the scandal has tried to discredit and hush the accusers who have come forth, as well as Cain himself. During a Q&A session after Cain’s recent debate with Newt Gingrich, he told reporters, "What I'm saying is this - we are getting back on message, end of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts, where everything has been answered - end of story."

Cain is doing his best to brush the allegations under the rug, claiming that they are all a part of “The Democrat Machine,” a conspiracy out to ruin his campaign. The women who have come forth are being seen as obstacles and nuisances to his campaign, instead of being treated with respect and responded to with justice.

Sexual misconduct is about power; it’s about someone wanting to feel in control and superior to those they victimize. Instead of siding with the accused, the media should be taking that power away and working on the side of justice. It should be presenting the facts, transparently, so that victims, both male and female, get their stories heard.