How Media Coverage of Sexual Assault Victims in Portland Perpetuates Rape Culture

A few weeks ago, a man name Joel Magid wrote a public “apology” on his Facebook page that went viral overnight. In the September 3rd post, Magid wrote, “I’ve done something reprehensible that I need to own up to […] I recently sexually assaulted someone. In this encounter, I pulled out my penis, and forcibly lifted the woman’s skirt. A friend intervened and stopped my behavior. I was blacked out drunk when this happened and don’t remember any of the situation.”

Almost immediately, the post was shared and a frenzy of comments ensued with some folks (including Magid’s own grandmother) patting him on the back for his heroic response and others more appropriately livid. A Portland musician named Theo Craig, (whose band’s song previously appeared on a compilation Magid put together) countered Magid’s confession as he wrote, “This is reprehensible and inexcusable. You need to admit that this wasn’t the first time. You need to admit that you’ve dragged at least one past victim’s name and reputation through the mud[.] You pitted a lot of people against a friend who was doing her best to stand up for a friend and protect others in our community from you.” In an act that follows what is now clearly Magid’s M.O., he denied that there were any previous instances where he sexually assaulted women.

However by September 7, Erica Ordway, a local burlesque producer who performs using the name Wanda Bones, composed a Facebook post telling her own story. She recounted how five years prior, she had been raped by Magid and no one believed her. In her courageously candid post, she shamed rape apologists and the culture that perpetuates their existence:

Why are women/female identified/anyone who has been abused not believed when they come forward with their story? What is it that makes these women so UNbelievable? Do we not want to believe it’s happened? Would we rather just go on with our lives the way they are? It’s inexcusable and these people need to be HEARD!

Ever relevant, it seemed that Ordway unknowingly predicted how her own story would be received a second-time around. While Death and Taxes and the Portland Mercury both published exemplary articles that voiced Ordway’s story with integrity and respect, other outlets have opted to partake in rape culture first hand.

The day after Ordway published her account, I became moved for the first time ever to publicly comment on a major website. Instead of setting out to take down the disgusting right-wing trolls who fester in these spheres, my critiques were instead pointed directly at the publishers. In the vomit-inducing Daily Mail article, authors, Liam Quinn and Valarie Edwards, used the word “claimed” nine times throughout the text in reference Ordway. The photos they included of Ordway are from her performances in which she dons stage makeup and tight leopard-print outfits. Magid is pictured smiling, holding a guitar.

In each of the numerous comments I tried to submit under pseudonym Chupacabra503, I explained in varying iterations that choosing to use the word “claimed” in this context not only instills inherent bias against the victim but invalidates her experiences as a whole. Always one to provide solutions to the problems I point out, I advised them against spreading shitty narratives centered on the perpetrator and gave alternative yet equally valid words to use instead including said, explained, expressed, reported, voiced, stated, shared, and disclosed. Unsurprisingly, my comments were never approved.

I considered denouncing the Daily Mail two weeks ago in response to their slanted coverage but I didn’t want to contribute to the media shit storm that ensued out of respect for Ordway’s privacy. However, after a nauseating interview conducted by NBC affiliate, KGW, aired today in which footage shows the newscaster and cameraman both empathizing with Magid, I am physically unable to remain stay silent in my outrage.

While it’s impossible to produce content that is truly unbiased, the extent that KGW embraced poor journalistic integrity and verbally empathized with Magid by naming him the victim is inexcusable. KGW has since removed the video without a public response, but the damage has already been done. KGW has actively chosen to contribute to the narrative that abusers are not at fault and that victims have motives which lead them to falsely accuse others.

Aside from the fact that giving an abuser over twenty minutes to “state his case” without speaking to victims prevents any chance of a well-rounded understanding of a situation, this interview is downright dangerous. By focusing on Magid and giving him a platform to speak, KGW is silencing not only Ordway and Magid’s other victims but sexual assault survivors everywhere. This type of media coverage actively discourages people from seeking justice because it screams out that victims are not to be believed — the very notion of disbelief that Ordway spoke out against in her original post.

This is a demand for media outlets to reevaluate their practices when approaching cases of sexual assault. These stories are not fodder for sensationalism nor are they a form of entertainment. To all media outlets who choose to continue to cover this story or the next highly publicized sexual assault case, do not focus on what a victim looks like. Do not make light of someone’s profession or even dare to insinuate that this has anything to do with being the recipients of assault. Do not question their truth and do not act as a megaphone for abusers. Do your job properly or step the fuck down. Shut up and listen to survivors.