"I Was a Child Abuser!" How Media Misrep's Promote Misguided & Ineff' Approaches

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​The University Seminars on
Ethics, Moral Education, and Society
Innovation in Education
&
present

“I Was a Child Abuser!”:

How Media Mis-representations

Promote Misguided and Ineffective Approaches

to Child Protection

EMILY HOROWITZ, Ph.D.
St. Francis College, Brooklyn

Date: MAY 5 at 7 PM
At Gottesman Library, Teachers College, 525 West 120th
Between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues, north side of street.
Seminar Room 305, Russell Hall
#1 train to 116th
PLEASE BRING PHOTO ID TO ENTER THE BUILDING

This talk will address the past few decades of mass media coverage of crimes against

children and the new laws, including the explosion of sex offender laws, aimed at

protecting them. I shall connect the rampant media coverage and extensive new

legislation to a broader historical and social context, in an effort to understand the causes

and consequences of the historic and persistent hysteria and irrationality about this

issue. I argue that child protection efforts emerge from the telling of sensational stories

about abused children and abusive adults, transmitted in ways that support American

cultural beliefs concerning individual responsibility for personal behavior and economic

circumstances. Additionally, I will study examples of how this narrative persists in mass

media, by examining the content and frequency of stories about child abuse. While

data and research consistently show that crimes against children are inexorably linked

to poverty and economic distress, the mass media story about child abuse focuses on

the most egregious and statistically rarest cases (e.g., child kidnapping by strangers).

Consequently, or correspondingly, laws emerge that sanction these exceedingly unusual

events (e.g. child sexual abuse by strangers). I will consider how such a narrative

regarding the behaviors of evil and immoral people creates and maintains a misguided

and ineffective approach to child protection, in the structural realms of American social

welfare, criminal and legislative policies. Finally, I shall also suggest how this discourse

influences adult and child interaction at the individual level.

Bio: Emily Horowitz is associate professor in the Sociology Department at St. Francis

College in Brooklyn. She is completing a book about myths and realities of crimes

against children (under contract, Rowman & Littlefield), and has a forthcoming article

in Psychology of Popular Media Culture on child abuse stories in American high-circulation

magazines. She also works as an advocate for those falsely accused and/or

wrongfully convicted of sexually and/or physically harming children. She received her

Ph.D. from Yale University in Sociology in 2002.

Links: Huffington Post article by Emily Horowitz on Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders

(October 2014): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emilyhorowitz/manufacturing-fear-