How to Get Away with Contributing to the Culture of Silence around Sexual Violence on National Television like ABC 20/20

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How to Get Away with Contributing to the Culture of Silence around Sexual Violence on National Television like ABC 20/20


Some viewers were shocked and appalled by ABC 20/20’s coverage of the 13 Survivors of convicted rapist Daniel Holztclaw who targeted black women while he worked as an Oklahoma City police officer. 

In fact, founder of, Tonya GJ Prince, found this piece of journalism ignorant, inane, and outright insulting to the 13 Survivors of Daniel Holtzclaw’s rampage. 

“The brave 13 Survivors deserved the level of award winning journalistic professionalism that viewers have come to expect from the ABC 20/20 brand and last night it was not to be found.”, says Prince. 

Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted by a jury for eighteen sexual violations in early December 2015. He committed these crimes while on the job as an Oklahoma City police officer. For these crimes, he was sentenced to 263 years in prison on January 21, 2016.

But, rather than present the story as a “Daniel Holtzclaw IS a convicted rapist sentenced to 263 years. 

ABC 20/20 chose to present the story as a “Well, I mean, did he really do it?”

The story opened from the perspective of the convicted rapist.  During the programming viewers were told several times that the convicted rapist was an “All American Boy”. 

Additionally, viewers were introduced to the convicted rapist’s parents and girlfriend.

Speaking of the convicted rapist’s girlfriend, whose face was shown but didn’t want to reveal her name, viewers gained insight into her thoughts.

While the convicted rapist’s former girlfriend expressed racist thoughts, interviewer JuJu Chang sat across from her in a park like atmosphere. This type of connection and atmosphere wasn’t afforded to the Daniel Holtzclaw’s victims and one relative of one victim.

Even though Daniel Holtzclaw has been a convicted since December 2015, ABC 20/20 continued to call the women who accused Holtzclaw, “accusers” for most of the program.

Juxtapose this with the recent story of alleged victims of Bill Cosby who came forward.

To date, Bill Cosby has not been convicted of any crime related to sexual violence in a criminal court.  Bill Cosby is a well-known figure in many households since he has been on television in one form or another dating back to the 1960’’s.

Yet, ABC 20/20 managed to tell the story of Bill Cosby’s alleged victim’s with some level of journalistic compassion, sensitivity, and objectivity that many found acceptable.  

This includes Tonya GJ Prince who has been a long time outspoken supporter of those victims as well. addressed the topic three times in the last year: (This doesn’t include other outreach mediums)

4 Critical Takeaways from the Bill Cosby Tragedy for Celeb Pals, Fans, & the Public
Letter from an Angry Survivor about this Bill Cosby Tragedy
Why I Am So Thankful for the Sacrifices that Black Folks Are Making to Fight Sexual Violence

Clearly ABC 20/20 knows how to communicate a victim’s story. So why was that absent in this case where there is a conviction and a very long sentence.

So why was that absent in this case where there is a conviction and a very long sentence?

Perhaps it is for the same reasons that this case has been tepidly supported by mainstream women’s groups and sexual assault organizations. 

Nevertheless, WE demand so much more from ABC 20/20.

It has not gone unnoticed by Women of Color that coverage of this case, has been slow and nearly mute.  

However, there is no excuse for how this substandard journalism that was unfair to these women who stepped into their courage.

According to a 2003 US Department of Justice report, for every Black woman that reports being raped, another 15 do not. (1) can only hope that lessons have been learned by ABC 20/20 and that efforts will be made to fill the gaps in their knowledge that have been exposed. 

Specifically, the lack of knowledge around the intersection around race and sexual violence. 

(1)    Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Hart & Rennison, 2003. U.S. Dept. of Justice

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Post Author: Tonya GJ Prince

Tonya is a Social Justice Expert with over 24 years experience as a speaker, group facilitator, crisis intervention counselor, writer, advocate & activist. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development.
Her Tortie rescue cat MiaBelle, is her longtime co-writer.
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