First Advisor

Lee Shaker

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication Studies and University Honors






New York times, Rape in mass media, Mass media and public opinion, Frames (Sociology), Rape -- Public opinion, Blaming the victim, Stereotypes (Social psychology) in mass media




The purpose of this thesis is to observe how the framing of rape and sexual assault within The New York Times has changed from 1980 to 2020. To achieve this study, I conducted a content analysis of 150 New York Times articles divided into three separate time periods and taking 50 randomized articles from each timeframe. The first data set was taken from 1980-84 to provide a baseline to work from. The second set is from 1993-97 to encompass significant legislative changes about sexual violence. The final data set is from 2016-2020 and provides the most recent conversation about rape and sexual assault within the news publication. The importance of the specific time periods is that they each coincide with a noticeable cultural shift in society regarding sexual violence. My coding focused on four main categories that included; the presence of rape myths and stereotypes, who was quoted first, episodic and thematic framing and semantic framing. This study shows that the framing of rape and sexual assault within The New York Times has made some significant changes since the 1980s that indicate greater insight into the complexities of sexual violence. However, this study also highlights the areas that could use improvement such as increased victim blaming attitudes and the lack of representation for certain victim groups. To better understand why accurate representation about rape and sexual assault is so important, we first need to examine the different power structures involved, what rape myths and stereotypes are, and the influential role that mass media framing plays in shaping public discourse. It is important to observe the way that news organizations represent sex crimes, perpetrators and victims since the media can be crucial in shaping public beliefs about rape and sexual assault which can result in significant repercussions for victims and society as a whole.

*Note: This thesis uses the term 'victim' in place of 'survivor' for two main reasons (1) the connotation of the word survivor implies that the victim's life was at risk- which is not the legal criteria for an assault to count as rape or sexual assault and (2) not all victims survive being attacked.


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