"I have to give credit where it's due... and today, it's due to the Exeter Express and Echo newspaper.
We buy the paper for the office every week; it keeps us linked into our community and alerts us to any local news or events that have a bearing on our work. In terms of sexual violence, it's often a depressing read because of the regular reporting of rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. But generally, cases are reported in a responsible and factual manner.
However, last week I read through the paper and found it had treated one report in a really irresponsible manner; it referred in a report to an incidence of indecent exposure in a pretty matter of fact way, but the headline accompanying the story described the crime as 'flashing' incredible!
I was totally incensed by this misrepresentation and how it could and would be perceived by readers of the paper. 'Flashing' is easily explained away as abit of harmless fun as depicted on 'humorous' holiday picture postcards; a kind of 'carry-on' act that shouldn't be treated too seriously. In actuality, it is a crime of sexual violence which can be terrifying for women and children and means that their access to public spaces is curtailed as a consequence. To call it 'flashing' is to downplay the severity of the crime and to collude with a world where women feel unsafe. More than that, it sends a message out that women who object to 'harmless, jokey, flashing' are just a little too uptight. Do we expect women to report these crimes when they are likely to be judged and not believed and even ridiculed? If we are to tackle the endemic of sexual violence in the world, we need all to be taking crimes of sexual violence much more seriously; individuals, communities and journalists.
I'm happy to report that the media involved in this tale were very responsive to our arguments. After writing to the Express and Echo, I received a personal call to confirm that they had made a mistake, that it was not their policy to use such a word and that they would be printing my letter that week as well as sending a message round to the whole newsroom to remind them of the care to use when writing about sexual violence. Thank you."