A woman’s words: what are they worth? Rape in New Zealand newspapers (1975-2015)

A. Barton

Masters student, Victoria University of Wellington

The sexual objectification of women’s bodies across a range of media has been a topic of much research. News reporting of sexual violence against women represents a particularly grave concern insofar as it perpetuates gender stereotypes and rape myths which, in turn, have been found to be active in practices of silencing women’s experiences of rape. Informed by feminist theory, this paper will explore and identify the different ways that rape has been discussed across a wide range of newspaper media across a forty-year period in the New Zealand context with a view to account for the ways in which women have been represented, objectified and silenced.

Specifically, it will report on preliminary findings of an analysis of depictions of women, rape and sexual assault in seven prominent New Zealand newspapers in the years 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2015 to determine if shifts have occurred in relation to reliance on gender stereotypes and the perpetuation of rape myths.

The paper will comment on changes that have occurred in the New Zealand context as well as changes that have happened across the media landscape and how these have impacted on reporting practices of sexual violence.


Ange Barton is an MA thesis student at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. Ange’s research interests broadly relate to sexual violence, gender and crime, and sexuality. Her master’s project constitutes a first effort to provide a large scale theoretical analysis of women’s representations in New Zealand newspapers across a forty-year period, and forms one component of Jan Jordan’s Marsden scholarship awarded in 2014 titled Rape, Silencing and Objectification: A socio-cultural analysis of barriers to rape reform. By exploring the different ways rape, women’s representation, objectification, and silencing are discussed within newspaper articles, Ange hopes her research will challenge societal attitudes towards mainstream media’s portrayal of women, and how silencing and objectification work as barriers to rape reform in a New Zealand context.


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