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Media Representations Of Sexual Offenders In General Media Essay

The mass media is known to be one of the very most influential resources of providing information to associates of the general public. It is also recognized to have a robust impact on the public perceptions of specific issues, for example love-making offenders (Brayford & Deering, 2012). In order for a story to enter into any form of the mass media, it requires to meet certain 'newsworthy' requirements which will help media companies to entice greater audiences, thus increasing overall profit (Galtung & Ruge, 1965). Female intimate offending is one particular issue within modern culture which works with all the aspects of the 'newsworthy' standards. The cases have a tendency to include a sense of seriousness and negativity in which so many of the media's audiences are interested to read/listen to about (Greer, 2003). This section will give attention to how the multimedia represents FCSOs, with particular reference to the Vanessa George case. It will also examine the way the mass media have the ability to influence general public perceptions of FCSOs. It is important to note that the majority of academic research affecting Child Sexual Offenders and the mass media focuses on Erotic Offenders in general, rather than specifically FCSO's, therefore this section will modify from the limited research available.

Child Sexual Offenders have longingly received large amounts of negative coverage by the media, causing a topic for public question (Kitzinger, 2004). The marketing often uses tactics by means of emotive terminology, and imagery etc. to effect how the general public view certain criminals. One example of this is the use of the iconic image of Myra Hindley within the mass media reports, which have shaped the way in which world imagines what FCSOs appear to be (ibid). Even though this was proved to be a co-offending circumstance, it offers historically shown how contemporary society can view any female involved in these sorts of crimes as heading against the original gender scripts that woman are incapable of committing such offences. This pertains to the theory employed by many feminists that argue that women are described as being "double deviant", this is where women who commit crimes receive harsher treatment by contemporary society as they not only breach regulations, but also break feminine norms (Heidensohn, 1987). Thus in terms of FCSOs, it could seem that they should be thought to be the most detrimental form of criminals due to the extreme ways they break the feminine gender assignments. This theory could describe why FCSOs get such negative portrayals within the multimedia. However, a counter argument of this is the fact females involved with child erotic offending tend to be viewed by everyone as harmless, , nor perceive their engagement as a kind of abuse. Therefore, advertising cannot possibly provide such negative representations of FCSOs, if indeed they do not imagine themselves that FCSO is problems within society. That is recognized by Denov (2002), who expresses that the general public perceive FCSOs to be less serious than male erotic offenders, this may be due to the common belief that girls cannot be with the capacity of committing such offenders. Thus the advertising will probably also carry such views and target their attention primarily on issues in contemporary society involving male sexual offenders, as they try to serve the pursuits of the general public.

3. 2 How the media influence public perceptions of FCSO

It has been argued by many academics that the marketing influence the public's perception of FCSOs, in a manner that serves as a a medicine, injecting their viewpoints directly into the heads of its audience. This is often referred to as the hypodermic syringe model (Kitzinger, 2004). This can be argued to hold a powerful effect, as the quantity of emotion produced by these offences could be why the press choose to article on it. As a result of, it triggers out bursts of street anger and assault which can be referred to as a moral stress, creating hysteria (Thomas, 2005; Cohen, 1972) among the general public. However, evidence shows that it has only been offered from the rarity of FCSO instances that are reported on, as a lot of the time population has a 'blind spot' for feminine perpetrated sexual misuse. This is due to the care-giving roles where females are socialised to hold towards children (Finkelhor et al. 1988), which again have a habit of being displayed in types of the media; films, news reports, TV etc. Therefore, maybe it's argued that depending on what ideology the media decide to record on in relation to FCSO's, their portrayal will have a significant impact about how the rest of population view them.

3. 3 Multimedia representations of FCSO

Historically FCSOs have hardly ever been reported on within media. This can be due to the myth that misuse by a female sometimes appears as harmless and a perplexed for of love (Gannon & Cortoni, 2010), therefore is definitely not considered inflicting damage on a child, so the press are less likely to survey on these situations as they don't fit the 'newsworthy' conditions discussed before in the section. This may also be a reason why the general public generally hold too little knowledge around the issues surrounding female child sexual offending. As Strickland (2008) argues, men are usually seen as being the ones to commit unlawful offences with extreme personalities. Consequently, it can be argued these stereotypes are what make it possible for the mass media to article on issues, and cases which match these stereotypes that contemporary society hold. As indicated in Chapter one (Intro), any mistreatment by females was usually referred to in the media as a 'connection' or 'affair' (Tsopelas et al, 2012) compared to if the perpetrator is a man in which particular case the reporters often make reference to them as 'abusers', again resulting in a lack of information on cases perpetrated by females. This problem resorts academics to ask the question of whether female perpetrated child erotic abuse is simply underreported by the advertising due to the above reasons, or if it is so uncommon that there surely is not enough conditions for the marketing to actually article on.

Nowadays the increasing amount of knowledge and consciousness on issues of feminine child intimate offending has roused strong societal reactions, leading to the increased coverage of these in the multimedia. Gakhal & Brown (2011) report how newspapers portrayed female child intimate perpetrators as 'bad monsters'. It has taken a remarkable differ from how they were recently portrayed, and has given contemporary society a new way of looking at a significant problem that has emerged. One of the most dramatic cases which the media has generally protected is that of Vanessa George. She was a 40-year-old mother of two who performed at a nursery in Plymouth. In Dec 2009 she was convicted of erotic assault, the making of and being in possession/distributing indecent images of children, and was presented with an indeterminate prison sentence with the very least dependence on seven years. In November 2010, there was a serious case review conducted in to the circumstance (PSCB, 2010), and it was uncovered that the nursery provided an excellent environment for the misuse to be completed. It found that certain spaces within the machine allowed Vanessa to commit these offences, including the nursery's phone line being out of order, allowing personnel to bring their own cell phones into the nursery for emergencies. This opportunity provided Vanessa with an excuse enabling her to acquire her mobile phone in the nursery and thus enabled her to have indecent images of the kids. It had been also discovered during the exploration of the case that she was in fact part of an co-offending trio, initiated by a male perpetrator called Colin Blanchard from Rochdale. Within the serious case review, it was mentioned that Vanessa got no prior convictions and the mistreatment only started when she became in touch with Colin over the internet, and was manipulated into committing misuse and then sharing images with him. These specific facts of the case were however indicated in a totally different manner throughout the marketing reporting on the situation.

3. 4 Vanessa George case

In section one it was mentioned through the study by Mathews et al. (1989) that there is substantial research to claim that many FCSOs actually aim for patients who are male adolescents, enjoying their abuse as safe. However, this isn't the case when looking at the truth of Vanessa George (BBC Reports, 2010). Across all the advertising coverage on this case it outlined the serious issues encircling female perpetrated intimate abuse which are present in the UK, and depending on the different mass media types, it was reported in extremely diverse ways. In order to know how the media represent FCSOs, an evaluation needs to come in between the various mass media types using critical discourse examination. There are many different explanations of critical discourse evaluation, however, within this dissertation we refer to it as the examination of language used in speech and writing - within kinds of the media - as a kind of 'social practice', where specific ideologies are reproduced through the terms in the texts (Wodak & Meyer, 2009). This method is appropriate for this dissertation as it is a way where we can analyse the terms utilized by the mass media when reporting on FCSOs, and discover the concealed ideologies in the text which is utilized to improve the followers' thoughts and opinions on the problem of FCSO.

Almost every article discussed FCSOs can be analysed using Critical Discourse Evaluation, as reporters are required to be sure decisions as to how they would like to represent particular ideologies in their article e. g. the conditions they use to spell it out a FCSO, or which estimates to make use of from customers of the public. These can all add to the way the ideology in the text is portrayed overall and so how these ideologies have an impact on society all together (Richardson, 2007).

The three main articles analysed were attracted from three different reports outlets which maintain conflicting ideological stances. Firstly, "Public enemy number 1" was extracted from SUNLIGHT (Coles, 2011), a paper which represents right-wing principles. Subsequently, "Vanessa George jailed for child intimacy misuse" was extracted in the Guardian (Morris, 2009) which expresses generally liberalism interests. Finally, "Little Ted's was 'ideal' place for Vanessa George maltreatment" traced from BBC News online (2010b), which is commonly recognized to represents a centrism approach to reporting.

The Sunlight, known because of its exaggeration of the reality to be able to attract the interest of more visitors, reports on the truth of Vanessa George to be the one which has caused a whole lot outrage and impact from the public, that the authorities actually needed to step in to avoid the quantity of abuse targeted at her from the public. What sort of article reveals these dramatic views is interesting for Critical Discourse Research, as it is outwardly bias in showing only the feelings portrayed by the parents of possible victims, rather than facts on the situation. Therefore, the evaluation made, could probably support the theory that the reality on the case are in fact spun to present a particular point of view - in this case, that FCSOs are really disturbing to population - and uses particular words which is targeted to influence their audience into positioning the same viewpoints. This is apparent in the next estimates: "Public foe number 1", "Sick b****", "The van taking Vanessa George to prison is attacked" (See appendix 1 for more examples). All the following use emotive words to express the disgust and anger noticed by many people of the public. This helps Gakhal & Brown's (2011) discussion that the media provide stereotypical portrayals of all sex offenders generally, using words linked with "monsters" & "evil perverts". Moreover, these selection of language in articles help provide a negative understanding of FCSOs. The actual fact that the reporter purposely used a collective noun in this article title - "Public enemy number one"-, suggests that they are trying to offer an ideology that Vanessa is hated by all members of the public, and that the audience also needs to imitate these emotions. While analysing this content, it was discovered that the only real quotations and opinions used, were that of parents involved in the case, who by natural means hold bias views. This, itself shows the way the reporter wanted to present only one ideological point of view. Furthermore, it could be argued that this negative portrayal of Vanessa George, a FCSO, in the media reinforces the argument previously put forward by Heidenson (1987) regarding woman offenders as exhibiting "twice deviance".

On the other palm, the article within the Guardian expresses a more balanced stance, delivering the audience with facts of the case. Its use of imagery shows how Vanessa was part of an co-offending trio, and even though she solely devoted the maltreatment in Little Ted's nursery, she was in fact in contact with two others; one (Colin Blanchard) who, as argued by the reporter, was coercing her to commit the offences. They reported that Vanessa was "besotted" with him. Therefore, it implies that the ideology where this news article is trying to present is not only about enjoying FCSOs in a poor light, but more that they want to present the factual conditions that culture is facing, for example the influence male intimate offenders have on females to power these to also commit intimate offences. However, when analysing this content, it could be argued that it is relatively bias, as it uses post-modified conditions such as 'paedophile' which frequently disguises the actual fact that the choice to commit these offences is not merely down to sexual preference but is actually a way in which an offender exploits and keeps power over children (Kelly, 1998). In addition, it links back to you to the same ideology provided in SUNLIGHT, by talking about Vanessa in a negative light "Cold" and "calculating". These quotes do, nonetheless, result from the Judge in charge of the situation, thus using a more reliable source, than that employed by the Sun, to replicate the ideologies through terms.

The manner in which The Guardian provides a balanced stance, can be argued to be much like the way the BBC information on the case of Vanessa George. This is because of the way the BBC supply the facts of the circumstance and refer to the serious case review (discussed earlier) as well as other reliable sources like the councillor for Plymouth's Efford and Lipson ward, in order to add to their own trustworthiness of being a trustworthy source. When analysing this content it is clear that the reporters' ideology behind this article is to supply the public with the facts, and try to prevent a moral panic among the public, by confirming on the positive responses professionals have had to the situation. The reporter used unaggressive verbs such as 'reassured', and quotations from Ofsted "Ofsted has recently implemented a number of changes", in order to show the public that society are able to study from the mistakes made in this case to be able to prevent future instances. However, the BBC used a disturbing 'unlawful style' image of Vanessa, which imitate the reporter techniques found in the Myra Hindley circumstance, which, as reviewed earlier, add to the stereotypical image of what FCSOs appear to be (Kitzinger, 2004). Therefore, it could be argued that whatever type of advertising, there's always some type of bias in the way reporters want to provide their ideology through the words and images they opt for. Another observation made when analysing this short article, is it subheading title 'Explicit culture', which then goes on to survey on the co-offending information on the case. The fact that the reporter has used a subheading, as well as the chosen words, implies that they are trying to make their audience aware of the ever more serious issue of co-offending child sexual offenders within modern culture.

From this Critical Discourse Evaluation it is clear that types of the media report in various ways; some use stereotyping FCSOs as a robust influential tool, others are usually more objective by delivering the facts of the case. All, however, experienced an optimistic impact as they have got brought up some new issues that society face in relation to FCSO. Although, a great deal of work still must be done with all areas of the media, in order to teach reporters so that they appreciate the gravity of the issues bordering FCSO and the traumatic results they can present both victims and general members of the general public with, when providing representations on FCSO's (Tsopelas et al, 2012).

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