Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Shereen Bingham


Due to a large deficit in the number of studies focusing on the advancement of rape myths in print journalism, this study analyzed rape stories in the New York Times for the presence of absence of rape myths. Coverage in 1990 and 1992 was selected for analysis because of its chronology before and after 1991 William Kennedy Smith Rape Trial. This trial played a strategic role since it was determined that rape myths are evident in the New York Times coverage of the Kennedy Smith trial. Chi-square analyses tested for association between the year of the coverage and the number of myths present, and the type of rape crime committed (simple or aggravated) with number of myths evident. Also, attribution of myths to earlier the journalist or other sources and the frequency which each myth appeared were examined. Results showed that 39% of stories in 1990 contained at least one rape myth and in 1992, 31% of the stories contained at least one myth. The type of rape, simple or aggravated, did have significant bearing on the presence of absence of the six myths applied in this study. Although the journalist was not the source of the myth in the majority of cases, 21% of myths found in 1990 and 12% of those found in 1992 were attributed to the journalist. There was not a significant decrease in the number of myths found in 1992 but the type of rape and number of high-profile cases in the news may have been responsible, in part, for the minimal difference in percentages. In the terms of which myths appeared most frequently, the “rapist is deviant” myth appeared most often, followed by “complicity” on the part of the victim. This duo represents the notion that journalist, and the public, are being given information that may lead to the assumption that rapist are not normal people and that the individuals who become victims of rape are somehow implicated in the crime. This study represents only a starting point for evaluating the print media and its obligation to educate the public in terms of the rape crime. Suggestions for future studies are offered in this study, including the possible evaluation of the Opinion-Editorial pages of papers of record for rape myth advancement and a survey of journalists’ personal attitudes toward personal violence, sexual conservatism, and the tendency to stereotype sex roles. Potential ways in which the media can debunk the rape myths prevalent in our culture today and become an ally to the victims of the rape conclude this study.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1994 Christina Navis.