By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new report by the Parents Television Council (PTC) has found that depictions of violence against women has increased by 120 percent on the nation’s airwaves in the last five years, with portrayals of violence against teenage girls increasing by a staggering 400 percent.
The report, entitled Women in Peril: A Look at TV’s Disturbing New Storyline Trend, studied treatment of violence against women on primetime shows between 2004 and 2009. During that time, researchers found a 120 percent violence against women depicted on the major networks CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox increased by 120 percent.
The most frequent depictions were beating (29%), threats of violence (18%), shooting (11%), rape (8%), stabbing (6%) and torture (2%). This violence against women resulted in death 19 percent of the time.
For example, in a March 22, 2009 episode of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, the character Dave has a “daydream” in which he shoots a female character in the chest while she’s hiking with another man.
Every network with the exception of ABC had a dramatic increase in such depictions of violence against women, with NBC heading the pack with a 192 percent increase, followed by CBS at 119 percent, Fox at 105 percent and ABC trailing at 39 percent.
However, the most disturbing finding was the staggering 400 percent increase in the number of television episodes that depicted violence against teen girls.
For example, a May 5, 2009 episode of CSI depicted a teen girl lying dead in a parking lot numerous times during the show. Another scene showed a teen being attacked by her friend’s father. In yet another scene, a boy is shown dropping a date rape drug in a teen’s drink, then attempting to rape her after she falls unconscious.
Increases in this type of violence increased by an appalling 700 percent on Fox, following by 600 percent on CBS, 300 percent on NBC and -100 percent on ABC.
Fox also stood out for depicting violence against women as being funny. In one example, in the May 17, 2009 episode of Family Guy, a man refers to the “complex, extensive divorce procedures required by 18th Century society” which is depicted as a man shooting his wife dead with a musket.
The study also found an increase in the incidences of intimate partner violence being depicted on television, from a total of 16 episodes in 2004 to 29 in 2009.
“By depicting violence against women with increasing frequency, or as trivial, even humorous matter, the networks may be contributing to an atmosphere in which young people view aggression and violence against women as normative, even acceptable,” the study warns.
Referring to the recent gang rape of a high school girl while at least a dozen people looked on, PTC president Tim Winters said, ”I don’t know what specific role media violence played in the horrific rape of the girl up in Richmond last weekend, but I believe a media environment saturated with violence is having a devastating effect. And we don’t even know yet what the impact of all this media violence will be on today’s children as they grow into adults.
“My sincere hope with this particular study is that the industry – and the advertisers – will look at the data and be as shocked as I was. This trend must not continue.”
To read the report, visit http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/publications/reports/WomeninPeril/main.asp
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