Bid to stop calling child sex abusers ‘paedos’, ‘beasts’ and ‘monsters’
Journalists are being encouraged against using terms like ‘paedo’, ‘beast’ and ‘monster’ to describe a sexual predator. The new guidance has been issued in a bid to help reporters understand the trauma experienced by victims of sexual offences. The guidance explains that specific words and phrases can be harmful to individuals who have experienced or been affected by sexual offences.
It includes a list of words, terms and phrases, alongside alternatives with explanations why they should be used instead. Rather than ‘paedos’, journalists have been asked to refer to them as ‘perpetrators of child sexual abuse’ in stories. And instead of terms such as ‘monster’ or ‘beast’ reporters are asked to use only factual information to describe the perpetrators and the offences they’ve committed.
: Here’s why the police helicopter has been over Blythe Bridge The guidance has been issued by Devon and Cornwall’s police and crimes commissioner. It states: “When we give those who harm others salacious titles, we create a culture which separates ‘them’ from ‘us’.
Individuals who commit sexual harm are a part of our society and they are more often known to those they harm as family members, partners, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, people in positions of power etc. “The term paedophile, relates to an adult’s sexual preference towards children and not specifically sexual offences committed. A person can be a paedophile and never commit a sexual offence.
Whilst the slang term ‘paedo’ is recognisable language by some, when used to describe a person convicted of child sexual offences, it does not convey the gravity of those offences towards children. “‘Paedo’ is an informal term which is sometimes used in society to joke about or trivialise sexual offences. Children deserve the dignity and respect of adults when referencing crimes committed against them.”
Other phrases that have been discouraged include ‘rape victim’ because it ‘can be perceived as defining a person by the offence or harm they have experienced’. Referring to an offender as ‘caged’ has also been discouraged because it implies that they are ‘animals’ and it may be perceived that they are not ‘able to control their actions’. The guidance adds: “Individuals who commit sexual offences and harm others are not wild animals, they are human, and they are responsible and accountable for their actions.
Name the type of justice that they receive for their crimes, for what it is.” The guidance has been released as part of Altered not Defined project which says it wants to engage journalists and PR experts in efforts to signpost victims to help and support and to create communications which respect the trauma that victims of sexual offences are likely to experience due to the crimes committed against them. Alison Hernandez, conservative police and crime commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, commissioned the project.
Commissioner Hernandez said: “The Insight for Journalists guide has within it some advice about terminology and clarity of language. “We are asking reporters and editors to consider whether they could issue warnings before potentially upsetting content is displayed, or whether it is necessary to include it at all, so an audience can choose whether to engage with it or to consume it at a different time or location. “Language and communications around sexual violence has never been so important, and the media and PR industries are vital in communicating these messages, so I really hope they engage with this work and help us to make a positive difference.”
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