There is perhaps no greater loss of control than being raped. Therefore, it is all the more important that a rape victim exercise control in speaking with the media. Otherwise, a victim can unwittingly undergo a second victimization through the media's mishandling of them and their story.
Reporters like to personalize a tragedy and may persist in contacting a victim to get his or her side of the story. But, a rape victim has the same rights as anyone in dealing with the media, in particular, the right to decline an interview. Being a victim does not mean that you have to give up your privacy and share your story publicly. You can simply say, "I don't want to talk." Or you can have a family member or friend shield you from any contact with the media by saying "no" for you.
Are there any benefits in speaking to the media?
Telling your story may help others from being similarly victimized. It can also help mobilize the community to fight crime and sexual violence. It may also be cathartic for you to air your story publicly.
Before speaking to anyone, however, be sure to seek professional advice from a legal expert and law enforcement. You certainly don't want to do anything to jeopardize your case or hurt a police investigation.
Remember that once your story is public you can't take it back. It becomes part of the public record and will live on forever, easily accessible in today's electronic age. In speaking to the media, you are in a sense telling your story to the world since the Internet has made communication global. That is all the more reason to exercise caution and self-awareness.
Media interviews can have unwanted repercussions. You or your family can become the subject of gossip or unwelcome attention. And you can end up being defined by your rape. For example, instead of being private citizen "Mary" you may be referred to as rape victim "Mary."
Should you go ahead and speak with the media, here are some things to keep in mind so that such an encounter doesn't become a second victimization:
Get Professional Advice.
Talk to an attorney and the police before you agree to a media interview. They can't make the decision for you, but they can advise you of the ramifications.
Define a strategy.
Decide what the harm or benefit is in speaking to a reporter. Would it make more sense to simply issue or read a statement? Would you prefer to have a spokesperson (a friend or family member or professional) deal directly with the media instead?
Get as much information as possible from a reporter before agreeing to speak. Ask what the focus of the reporter's story is and how your interview will be used. Find out who else the reporter plans to interview.
Set the ground rules.
Choose the time and location for media interviews. Decide in advance what you will and will not comment on. Remember that you have the right to refuse to answer any questions and that you can set any subject off limits. You also have the right to refuse an interview with a reporter even if you have granted interviews to others. Furthermore, don't be afraid to ask for a particular reporter; for example you may feel more comfortable speaking with a female rather than a male.
You have the right to remain anonymous and not have your real name used. Assuming you desire it, be sure no information is presented that would identify you or your whereabouts such as photos or street addresses.
Prepare for an interview.
Think about the key points you want to make. It may be helpful to write an outline or bullet your main ideas. That way when you're interviewed you won't forget your key points. Ask a reporter for questions in advance so you'll have an idea of the interview's direction and can think about your response. You may want to have a friend or family member do a mock interview with you to help you feel more comfortable during the real one.
Manage the interview.
You have the right not to talk about certain topics. If it is a print interview, you may want to tape it so you have a record. Same for TV, assuming the producer allows that. During an interview, speak clearly and concisely. Never lie. If you don't know the answer to a question, simply say that. You may want to have a friend or family member attend an interview with you for moral support and so that you have a witness to what was said.
Be assertive after the interview.
Ask if you can see the story or your quotes pre-publication or airing. You may be turned down but it puts the reporter on notice that you are concerned about being quoted accurately.
Correct the record.
With all the precautions you've taken, it's more likely the finished product will be accurate. However, if that is not the case, demand a correction.
Remember that an interview can be very emotional and rekindle your old feelings and fears. Therefore, it's important to be as prepared as possible and to know ahead of time what you feel comfortable discussing. Don't forget that when it comes to your personal story, the reporter needs your voice. It's up to you to tell your story in a way that reflects most positively on you.