How crime shows can help curb sexual assaults

Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) Crime dramas are not for a momentary thrill as people who watch television programmes in which sexual predators are punished may avoid sexual predatory behaviour in real life, a new study suggests.

The Washington State University (WSU) study, which compared various crime shows in the US, shows a connection between how sexual violence is portrayed and how people view sexual consent.

The survey of 313 college freshmen explored the influence of watching the three most popular crime drama franchises: “Law and Order”, “CSI” and “NCIS”.

Watching “Law and Order” was associated with viewers’ increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and to refuse unwanted sexual activity.

“One of the marked differences between ‘Law and Order’ and other crime dramas is its focus on the criminals’ trials.

Viewers of ‘Law and Order’ not only see the criminal act taking place, but they typically see the criminal punished for the crime,” said lead researcher Stacey Hust from WSU.

In contrast, watching “CSI” was associated with decreased intentions to both ask a partner for consent and to adhere to a partner’s consent decisions.

“The legal aspects of ‘Law & Order’ present opportunities to better address topics that other crime dramas might omit,” said study co-author Emily Garrigues Marett.

“For example, the process of preparing a case for prosecution frequently requires establishing whether consent was present. This provides a valuable opportunity to clarify misperceptions around this issue,” Marett explained.

Hust and her co-authors agree that the findings could make a significant contribution to the field of sexual assault prevention.

“The results indicate that simply depicting the issue and its impact on the victim may not be enough to influence attitudes and behaviour,” Hust said.

“Instead, sexual assault reduction messages should emphasise the rewards of practicing healthy sexual consent behaviour,” she said.

The study was published in the Journal of Health Communication.

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