American Sociological Association

Ideal Victims and Monstrous Offenders: How the News Media Represent Sexual Predators

Drawing on content analysis of 323 Los Angeles Times articles published between 1990 and 2015, this article examines how news reports represent sexual predator victims and offenders in order to examine how such narratives construct images of the sexual predatory. Results demonstrate that representations of the sexually predatory are aged and gendered: stories about child victims encompass more sexual violence, graphic descriptions of that violence, more male victims, and older offenders. Articles use child victims as a rhetorical tool to emphasize the “predatory” nature of offenders and justify retributory violence or harsh legal punishment against sexual predators. Narratives about adult victims focus mainly on women, framing them as responsible for their victimization and minimizing their importance relative to child victims. The cumulative effect of this coverage narrows representations of victims and violence, contributing key dynamics to both the social and legal predator template.


Rebecca A. DiBennardo