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End victim-blaming in media coverage of crashes

 In Media, Opinion, Public Policy, Vision Zero

It’s time to stop blaming victims of traffic violence

Last week, Walk SF wrote a letter to the editor to the San Francisco Chronicle, calling out their atrocious coverage of a recent crash on April 30, 2018.

Unfortunately, the Chronicle has not published this letter. We are publishing it here because it is critically important to raise awareness of victim-blaming in the media and to shift the conversation to the real problems: the daily traffic violence we’ve been conditioned to accept, and the assumption that streets are for cars, not for people.

Here is our letter:

Dear editor,

We’re appalled by how you wrote about a man killed while walking on 19th Avenue.

The headline — “Jaywalker killed in San Francisco in early morning collision, police say” — labels the victim a criminal. Not a person. Not someone crossing one of the most dangerous streets in San Francisco. The message is that he crossed at the wrong time, so it’s his fault he died.

We don’t even know if that’s what happened. Early police reports are often inaccurate. Just ask the members of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets. They have suffered through victim blaming, even when the victims were their children, killed while biking or walking.

Let’s focus on the real story here — the epidemic of serious and fatal crashes in our city. We can design our streets so that mistakes don’t result in death. That’s the premise of Vision Zero, an international movement to end ALL traffic deaths. Instead of blaming people for getting killed, let’s talk about how to save their lives.

Cathy DeLuca
Policy & Program Director
Walk San Francisco

The death of Elijah Reed was tragic and preventable. We will continue to fight every day for a San Francisco where everyone is truly safe on our streets.

A better approach
You can help us stop the practice of victim-blaming by sharing this excellent article from the Columbia Journalism Review about how reporters can write about crashes in a way that uncovers systemic problems, rather than focusing on individual behaviors. Please share it on Facebook and Twitter, and send it to journalists you know. 

Photo credit: Jon Jordan via Flickr Creative Commons