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‘If his name isn’t Ian McKellen then we don’t care’: Why gay sexual assaults go unreported by the press

Anonymous Anonymous March 2, 2018

I’d just finished a report into one court case when I called the office with another I thought we should cover. An older man was being sentenced for groping multiple men in a bar toilet, grabbing their behinds while they were at a urinal and trying to force himself on them. Having got details from the court, I rang my desk and told them about the unpleasant nature of the case, the severity of his offences, and how many men were assaulted.

“Is his name Ian McKellen,” they asked. Slightly confused about the question, I told them no, it obviously wasn’t.

Their response: “Well if his name isn’t Ian McKellen, it’s not a case for us. If he’s not famous, papers don’t tend to care. Basically, it’s far too gay, and papers don’t pay for gay.”

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Working as a court reporter, this was a regular occurrence. I worked for one of Britain’s best news agencies, which specialises in covering crime. During this time, I covered in gory detail all manner of rapes, murders and terror attacks. However, when it came to gay men being sexually assaulted, the agency made a conscious choice not to cover it.

This is not a decision made by papers, nor a case of gay men and women not being sexually assaulted. It’s a matter of censorship, an editorial decision by an agency not to cover sexual assaults where the detail is gay. This was not exclusive to the agency I worked for either; these cases were generally not reported, with the general consensus that papers will not be interested in gay crimes.

 

Grindr murder Stephen Port

They have decided that stories of women being assaulted by men have value, but that people raped by someone of their own sex do not. They are deciding for the reader and public that they would not care and don’t need to know.

In my role, I found and suggested dozens of cases of gay sexual assaults, all of which were dismissed or outright ignored by my bosses. One such case involved someone being raped by another man in a gym. This case should be public interest, it was a horrific attack in a public place where unsuspecting patrons pay membership. Due to the agency policy on such cases, it was a story never told.

When cases are covered, they often only get attention because of other factors surrounding them. For example, I remember one incident of a man accused of sexually assaulting another in a hotel. Writing the story, I was told to focus on the price of the hotel rooms, its previous famous guests, and the general glamour of that part of London. The details of the offence were secondary.

In this case, the accused had grabbed the defendants penis, as well as attempting oral sex. With both acts going on for almost a minute, the defendant claimed he wouldn’t have been able to do these for as long as he did without consent. Despite this being a detail crucial to any verdict in the case, this was again removed the story due as it was “too gay”.

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This ridiculous editorial decision is not only homophobic, it prevents the reader from understanding the verdict delivered in a case. They are so afraid of gay sex that the story suffers.

Remarkably, this decision over what is and isn’t ok to report also extends to anal sex. I have reported on women being orally raped, tortured and even killed, but the mention of anal is still seen as a taboo. The thought is that readers will wince at the very notion and lose interest in the story. I once asked why we always neglected to mention when rapes were anal.

“It’s just a bit much isn’t it?” I was told. “Besides, the papers will just take it out anyway. Nobody wants to have to read that.”

This would come in the same week stories would be sent out on killers melting their victims’ bodies in acid, or mothers who strangled their children with a bag.

Of course, there have been a few cases too big to ignore, such as Stephen Port. Born in Southend, Port killed at least four men after drugging and raping them. Reported everywhere, the case was then used by my bosses to justify not reporting less serious gay assaults and rapes shortly after.

“Papers have had enough gay lately, nobody will be interested,” was that particular verdict. These incidents are always happening but the news agency somehow finds a reason not to report it.

Disgustingly, this does not extend to criminality involving lesbian women. Agencies respond to the prospect of women sexually or violently assaulting each other with glee. This is not because they value women more, but the opposite. Reporters would be asked to find pictures of them, or go along and hope.

“Could be a great story if they are hot,” was a regular message from my bosses.

“Papers love a catfight story”.

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They find the concept of men groping men too obscene to cover but rush to letch over women in the same situation.

Court reporting is a vital aspect of justice. It allows the judiciary to be held to account and exposes criminals to the public. Most importantly, it encourages other victims to come forward.

The cascade of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are proof of this. Without these cases being reported, gay men will not have a #metoo moment. They will not see others abused and be ready to talk about it. Without the cases being reported, a victim may not see someone else has accused their abuser, encouraging them to come forward.

These stories are happening, and the media is making a conscious decision to look the other way.

More: Crime, Grindr, murder, sexual assault, Stephen Port

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