The New Yorker gave Deborah Ramirez a platform to speak. Yes, Ramirez used anonymous sources to backup her claims. No, it doesn’t make the New Yorker or the writers, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, any less credible. And here’s why: this societal and justice system was set up to disenfranchise survivors of sexual, emotional and physical abuse while simultaneously protecting abusers. The New Yorker gave her a platform—a voice.
While some argue that the article lacked substance and proof due to the anonymous sources, what they fail to acknowledge is the severity of sexual abuse and trauma.
Unlike every other type of reporting that demands credible sources, the reporting done on abusive people, specifically men, in positions of power should hold enough weight by existing alone. There are complexities that are embedded in coming forward. The lack of witnesses and the negative backlash from the public are all things that survivors dread and are main factors for why very few victims actually come forward to report their abuse.
Survivors of abuse who willingly choose to step into the spotlight to talk about a traumatic experience is not easy. Reliving trauma is never easy, even decades later, which is why it is crucial for journalists and reporters to respectfully give survivors an opportunity to speak. Even more so, in the #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo movement has opened the doors for survivors and given them the opportunity to tell their story. In 2017, when the hashtag went viral (courtesy of black activist, Tarana Burke), several actors came forward. Journalists Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow were some of the first ones to report on the allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
While many argue that the media influences the way society views the accused by not allowing any room for “innocent until proven guilty,” the justice system protects abusers regardless of how the media does or doesn’t influence society (Brock Turner).
It is important to note that reporting on abuse and interviewing survivors is delicate and requires patience and trust between the writer and the source. Pushing a survivor to come forward will not only break the trust, but will demonstrate a lack of sympathy for sexual assault victims. If reporters truly harassed Christine Blasey Ford outside her workplace, then that is absolutely a violation of ethics—patience is crucial.
With that being said, journalists possess a degree of responsibility by giving a voice to victims of sexual assault. Yes, reporting the truth is important. However, what is more important than allowing someone who has been told to be quiet, to be submissive, to report it to the police (despite knowing what happens to survivors) or be victim blamed, a chance to speak out against their abuser? The New Yorker gave survivors that opportunity.