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The Politics of Child Sexual AbuseEmotions, Social Movements, and the State$
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Nancy Whittier

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195325102

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195325102.001.0001

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Diffusion and Dilution

Diffusion and Dilution

Mass Culture Discovers Child Sexual Abuse

Chapter:
(p.111) 5 Diffusion and Dilution
Source:
The Politics of Child Sexual Abuse
Author(s):

Nancy Whittier (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195325102.003.0006

Focuses on the cultural changes produced by the movement against child sexual abuse, by tracing changes in mass media portrayals of child sexual abuse from 1970s to the 1990s. Media reflected a contradictory mixture of meanings drawn both from movement organizations and mainstream culture. Mass media coverage increased dramatically; it reflected movement success, but like policy gains, media selection processes favored movement messages that resonated with mainstream beliefs. Coverage emphasized abuse by strangers over incest, breaking silence, the need for therapy and healing, but de‐emphasized the movement's emphases on self‐help and solidarity among survivors. By the early 1990s, medical and criminal frames dominated and sceptical coverage increased as a countermovement emerged. Contrary to the view that media coverage represented a “moral panic,” the chapter argues that it did not have the characteristics of a moral panic, and is better understood through the interactions of movement, experts, and media selection processes.

Keywords:   mass media, cultural change, framing, opportunities, selection processes, incest, countermovement, moral panic

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