Comment Sections Are Cesspools Of Rape Culture, Research Finds

One-fourth of all online comments at the end of news articles about sexual assault and rape include victim-blaming statements, new research out of the University of Southern California shows.

The study analyzed 52 articles and found that merely one did not contain comments offering support for the accused perpetrator, the study said. Victim-blaming statements appeared in 1,097 of the 4,239 comments or simply over 25 percent of them.

“I was surprised that so many people were so mean about these victims, ” Kristen Zaleski, associate professor at USC’s School of Social work, told The Huffington Post. “Even knowing what I know about rape culture, I didn’t expect so much loathe and judgment and discriminatory attitudes and othering there was a lot of othering.”

Branded as a “first-of-its-kind study, ” the researchers analyse commentaries posted to rape-related articles published in the The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times between December 2014 and March 2015. In total, they looked at 52 newspaper article covering everything from Bill Cosby’s accuserscoming forward to the fallout from Rolling Stone’s flawed article on campus rape.

If the accused perpetrator was a celebrity or public figure, the individual was more likely to receive support or commenters were more likely to attack the alleged victims.

About 16 percent of all commentaries included statements of support for survivors, while 6 percentage offered support to the accused assailants and 23 percentage included “trolling” statements about statute and society, such studies concluded.

Victims received more subsistence and compassion when the alleged perpetrator was not an American citizen or the assault occurred abroad. But in those cases, the victim-blaming commentaries were replaced by racist statements.