With her outstanding, deep-dive examination of the issues surrounding a case of rape on Stanford University’s campus, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield set the standard for media coverage of sexual assault.
During the June 6 edition of Legal View, host Banfield dedicated more than 20 minutes to reading -- without interruption -- most of the heart-wrenching letter that the Stanford rape survivor wrote and read aloud in court to her attacker, Brock Turner, who was found guilty of three charges of sexual assault. Banfield said Judge Aaron Persky chose a sentence far less than the maximum because he feared a negative impact on Turner, and she asked, “What about the impact that the crime has had on the victim?”:
Banfield's coverage continued on the June 7 edition of her show, in which she interviewed Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor whose attackers were never prosecuted. Tracy condemned the use of excuses like alcohol in trying to lessen the severity of rape, saying that “alcohol is absolutely not an excuse”:
On the next segment, Banfield discussed rape culture with Daily Beast columnist and CNN political commentator Sally Kohn, who slammed “the conservative movement” and “men's rights” activists for the “sort of notion that” rapists should be pitied. She also called out a relentless crusade to attack the “notion that there is rape culture,” specifically naming conservative columnist George Will, who has a decades-long history of attacking sexual assault victims.
SALLY KOHN: And this sort of notion that we should sort of pity him, it's related to, it is very much related to, the men's rights and by extension the conservative movement in general for the last several years has attacked this notion that there is rape culture, has attacked this idea that we're getting too politically correct on campuses by trying to educate boys and girls about sexual assault and safety and responsibility, and said, “Oh no, no, no, we're turning boys into -- they're too careful now, and everything is rape now, blah, blah, blah.” You know what? This is what happens. This is what happens.
This is what happens when you -- George Will in a Washington Post column attacked this sort of “alleged” crisis of sexual assault. Well, this is what we're talking about when we're talking about sexual assault. It is wrong. It is far too prevalent, and this culture we've had in this country in politics of masking it and masquerading it and making excuses for it, it's time it ends.
Banfield deserves praise for giving considerable airtime to such an important topic and providing a platform for the voices most capable of contextualizing the issue. Other media figures and outlets should pay heed.