New PTC Study Finds Increased Depictions of Violence Against Women on Primetime Programs

October 28th, 2009 5:20 PM

Violence against women has increased on TV programs, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council.

"Women in Peril: A Look at TV's Disturbing New Storyline Trend" found that incidents of violence against women and teenage girls increased 120 percent on television in the in the past five years, while overall violence on primetime broadcast entertainment programs increased only 2 percent in the same time period. Violent incidents against teen girls on television programs increased 400 percent since 2004.

Television programs depicted violence or the "graphic consequences of violence" toward women 92 percent of the time, compared to the 5 percent that it was implied and the 3 percent it was described.

The PTC singled-out Fox for its increased use of violence against women as comedy.

Analysts at the PTC found that beatings were the most frequent type of violence against women depicted on television programs, followed by, in order, threats of violence, shooting, rape, stabbing and torture.

Just one week ago, AP reported that actress Nicole Kidman "conceded that Hollywood has probably contributed to violence against women by portraying them as weak sex objects."

PTC President Tim Winter noted that with these depictions of violence against women, "the broadcast networks may ultimately be contributing to a desensitized atmosphere in which people view aggression and violence directed at women as normative, even acceptable."

That "desensitized atmosphere" is the backdrop to the gang-rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl at a high school homecoming dance last weekend in California. Reports claimed 20 people either participated in the assault, which lasted for over two hours, or watched as it happened rather than call the police.

CNN's Stephanie Chen asked the obvious question in an Oct. 28 article, "Why didn't anyone come forward?" She referred to theories like the bystander effect, in which witnesses "can be less likely to report a crime because they reinforce each other with the notion that reporting the crime isn't necessary." Or, they think another person in the group reported the crime.

Other theories proposed in Chen's article included fear of retaliation by the perpetrators and that as adolescents, the witnesses failed to recognize victimization.

But the cultural impact of the Hollywood factor may be a part of this as well and was a point Chen ignored in her exploration of the topic.