Lasting and harmful effects of unintended consequences
The intent of this letter is not to highlight the egregiousness of Charles Richardson's comments — “Young women seduce older men for sport” — in his attempt to mitigate the sentence of a man who had sex with a girl who was in early adolescence.
The sentiment and the origins of it, the sexualisation of young girls, is unfortunately pervasive, making the manner in which The Royal Gazette presented it even more distressing. The victim and her family who, if they attended the sentencing hearing, had to endure comments impugning her character in court, and then wake up to find them amplified by the Gazette in a headline splashed across the front page of the newspaper and the lead story online.
This case was reported in a manner that showed no consideration at all for the impact putting a loudspeaker to Mr Richardson's comments would have on the victim and her family, and for other victims who have long been told that, although children, they were responsible for the actions of adults.
The Gazette's decision to curate a headline that amplified a particular comment, which, without any links to resources or information on the elements of the crime committed, read like clickbait, may serve only to reinforce the misconceptions and harmful view of young victims of sexual abuse.
At no point in the article did the Gazette provide the definition of the crime of unlawful carnal knowledge or offer a link to resources that could aid victims and those impacted by the crime.
Additionally, the article was not accompanied by comments from a professional skilled at discussing the issue of the sexualisation of young girls, or the early adolescent brain, and I suspect — or rather hope — that the rational was because the Gazette did not want to be accused of weighing in on a matter before the courts at present.
However, that same concern does not extend to simply listing resources for those impacted by sexual abuse and directing those readers who may have been triggered by the content of the article and the comment amplified by the Gazette to support services.
To neglect to provide even that very basic level of information to the reader transformed the article from a genuine attempt to inform the public to one that served to further manipulate the sexualisation of young girls; in this instance, however, not for a shorter prison sentence but for an attention-grabbing headline.
As an outlet for responsible reporting the Gazette at the very least should amend the article to provide resources for victims of sexual abuse and if it has not done so already, reach out to the victim and her family to offer an apology for the manner in which this case was reported.
• On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.
• Image courtesy of change.org