Australian radio station 2Day FM is drawing criticism after its hosts (seen at left) made a 14-year-old girl reveal her sexual assault as part of a "lie detector" segment today.
In the segment, which sounds distasteful under normal circumstances, mom Michelle brought her daughter Rachel to the studio to submit to a lie detector test about drinking, drugs, sex, and cutting school. Hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O'Neil Henderson went along with this questionable form of therapy/shaming, engaging in the following dialogue:
JACKIE O: We're all a bit nervous actually because mum Michelle has brought her daughter in to go on the lie detector…
JACKIE O: What's your worst fear, is it the sex, is it the lying, the possibility of doing drugs, smoking?
MICHELLE: Drugs and sex and older boys …
JACKIE O: Has she told you she's had sex before or do you think she's a virgin?
MICHELLE: … I think she might have had sex before.
JACKIE O: Right. But she hasn't said anything?
Rachel said she was scared, but that didn't stop the hosts from asking her about cutting class. Then her mother asked her about sex. Sounding angry, Rachel said, "I've already told you about this and don't look at me and smile because it's not funny! Oh, OK! I got raped when I was 12 years old!" Handling the situation pretty much as poorly as possible, host Kyle responded, "Right. And is that the only experience you've had?" Then the girl and her mother engaged in this upsetting exchange before Jackie O had the belated wisdom to shut the segment down:
MICHELLE: I only found out about that a couple of months ago. Yes, I knew about that.
RACHEL: And yet you still asked me the question.
MICHELLE: The question was, have you had sex, other than that?
Rachel didn't have to answer, luckily, because Jackie O stopped her and offered counseling, at the station's expense. Kyle and Jackie O say they didn't know about the rape prior to the segment, and 2Day FM has issued an apology. Many in Australia, however, are rightly critical of the station and hosts. New South Wales Community Services minister Linda Burney says, "it was apparent that the announcers were only interested in shock value and entertainment and weren't at all concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of a 14 year old." And Karen Willis, manager of a rape crisis center, says,
First, an adult person asking a child about their sexual experiences is not on, and to do that in a public arena is quite frankly harassment of a child. Then when [the girl's] answer came, to glibly ask whether she'd had any other experiences, rather than getting her off air as soon as possible … it's abuse of a child really.
Australia's Department of Community Services is investigating the assault. If the radio station receives complaints about the segment, Kyle and Jackie O will probably have to submit to stricter screening for their show to make sure it meets decency standards. The group Media Watch says contestants on the lie detector segment have previously been asked to discuss "STDs; masturbation; anal sex; threesomes; and eating faeces during sex." Kyle and Jackie O have also drawn fire for a variety of dares and practical jokes, including pretending to blackmail a pop star with photos of her having sex.
It seems borderline abusive to subject a child to an on-air lie detector test under any circumstances, and especially one known for its previous raunchy content. The hosts should certainly shoulder the blame for agreeing to perform the test on the girl. But the fact that Rachel's mom would bring her on such a show, and allow the hosts to ask her about sex, knowing that she had previously been raped, is perhaps more disturbing. Karen Willis says, "I have serious concerns about [the] mum and her behaviour and I'm hoping there has been some sort of report. It sounds like she's tried to tell [her] mum and she hasn't taken it seriously." Hopefully daughter and mother both take 2Day FM up on their offer of counseling, and hopefully Rachel finds someone to take her seriously, rather than using her pain to entertain an audience.
Teenage Girl's Radio Rape Admission Sparks DOCS Inquiry [News.com.au]
Kyle And Jackie O's Live Lie Detector Test Goes Very Wrong [Crikey]
Girl's Rape Revelation Sinks Radio Lie Detector Stunt [Sydney Morning Herald]