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Report: Dramatic Rise in TV Violence against Teen Girls

November 30, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - It's enough to make any Virginia parent squirm with discomfort - and then change the channel. A new study comparing five years of prime-time television programming finds that story lines depicting violence against women are on the increase, and that violence on the "small screen" is more graphic than ever before in the history of television. These trends concern the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Action Alliance.

The study was done by Parents Television Council, which reviewed more than 200 hours of programming from 2004 to 2009, according to Council president, Tim Winter.

"While the amount of violence on prime-time broadcast TV has remained relatively unchanged over the past five years, the prevalence of story lines that include violence against women has increased at an alarming rate: a 120 percent increase."

Winter says one disturbing new trend is depicting violence against women as funny and even inconsequential. He says that can lead television viewers, particularly children, to believe such behavior is normal and acceptable. Studies show that children's aggressive behavior increases after watching similar aggressive acts on television, Winter explains.

"We're seeing increases of violent scenes against teen girls, intimate partner violence and female victimization as a punchline for comedic purposes."

Winter cites as an example the animated Fox Television program, "The Family Guy," which airs during prime time on Sundays. In response, the producers of the show assert that it is meant to be a humorous parody intended for adult audiences.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, 28 percent of women and 13 percent of men in the state have been victims of sexual assault.

The Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Action Alliance hotline number is 1-800-838-8238. The report, "Women in Peril," is available at www.ParentsTV.org.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA