WashPost adds editor's note on child molester article, says man had 'sex with' child instead of rape - iMediaEthics
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The Washington Post in 2011 (Credit: Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil)

The Washington Post‘s article about the rape and impregnation of a 10-year-old girl originally said the perpetrator had sex with the girl. Readers of the article may have thought the article minimized the allegations because it said the accused had sex with the child which indicates consent.

Language matters when reporting on allegations of sexual assault and rape because phrasing like “have sex with” implies consent, iMediaEthics has reported in the past. In 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle used the phrase “repeatedly have sex with” when referring to a 15-year-old rape victim, iMediaEthics flagged at the time, and the newspaper’s deputy metro editor admitted it was an error. And in 2016, the Australian Press Council ruled against News.com.au for using the phrase “wild sex” about an alleged rape.

The Washington Post’s spokesperson confirmed to iMediaEthics it received complaints about the article and that it changed the headline from “An Indiana man who impregnated a 10-year-old girl will spend the rest of his life in prison” to “Indiana man who forced a 10-year-old to have sex and impregnated her will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

In an editor’s note atop the Sept. 21 article, the Washington Post admits:

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred in several instances to child molester Nicholas Deon Thrash having sex with a child, without making clear that his actions were sexual assaults. The terminology has been corrected.”

When iMediaEthics viewed the article Sept. 26, it still contained several uses of the phrase “have sex with.” iMediaEthics is asking the Post if it will leave those references intact in light of the editor’s note. The Post said “The changes are reflected in the story—you’ll see the references state, for example, ‘forcing the young girl to have sex,’ ‘forced her to have sex with,’ and ‘forced the child to have sex with him.'”

Hat Tip: Alison McQuade

UPDATED: 10/2/2918 6:50 PM 

CORRECTION - October 1, 2018 9:52 AM

Due to an editing error, this article incorrectly said the Post article didn’t clearly state the man had faced charges.

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WashPost adds editor’s note on child molester article, says man had ‘sex with’ child instead of rape

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