A new study by the Parents Television Council claims that between 2004 and 2009 TV depictions of violence against women and teenage girls increased at rates that far exceed the overall increases in televised violence.
In a new special report, the Parents Television Council found that storylines depicting violence against females are increasing and being shown more graphically and in ways that have not been seen in the history of television.
The PTC’s report, Women in Peril: A Look at TV’s Disturbing New Storyline Trend, examined fatal and nonfatal female victimizations on primetime broadcast television and observed a significant increase in the incidence of female victimization; an increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims; an increase in the use of female victimization as a punch line in comedy series; and an increase in the depiction of intimate partner violence.
“Our new research points to a disturbing trend,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “By depicting violence against women with increasing frequency, or as a trivial, even humorous matter, 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,”
PTC Director of Communications and Public Education Melissa Henson added: “The fact is that children are influenced by what they see on TV and that certainly includes media violence.”
The study compares the qualitative and quantitative differences in the treatments of violence against women on prime time broadcast television between 2004 and 2009. PTC analysts examined all primetime programming (excluding sports and news programs) on the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC [CW and MNT did not exist in 2004]) during the February and May 2004 and 2009 sweeps periods for a total of 209.5 hours of programming.
- “Violence against women and teenage girls is increasing on television at rates that far exceed the overall increases in violence on television. Violence, irrespective of gender, on television increased during the study period only 2% from 2004 to 2009, while the incidence of violence against women increased 120% during that same period. Cumulatively, across all study periods and all networks, the most frequent type of violence was beating (29%), followed by credible threats of violence (18%), shooting (11%), rape (8%), stabbing (6%) and torture (2%). Violence against women resulted in death 19% of the time. Violence towards women or the graphic consequences of violence tends overwhelmingly to be depicted (92%) rather than implied (5%) or described (3%).
- “Every network with the exception of ABC demonstrated a dramatic increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women between 2004 and 2009.
- “Although female victims appeared to be primarily of adult age, collectively, there was a 400% increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims across all networks from 2004 to 2009.
- “Fox stood out for using violence against women as a punch line in its comedies — in particular Family Guy and American Dad — trivializing the gravity of the issue of violence against women.
- “From 2004 to 2009 there was an 81% increase in the incidence of intimate partner violence on television.”
Winter added: “Our study today serves as a clarion call to all Americans about a critical issue with dire consequences. We are calling on television producers and network executives, members of the advertising community, elected representatives and appointed government officials, and most importantly, the viewing public, to stand up against this disturbing trend.
“In a country where more than 60% of children have been exposed to violence in their daily lives, according to recent research by the Justice Department, we must take the utmost care not to normalize violent behavior — especially violence against women — through our television programming.”