(Reuters Health) – An episode of the long-running television show Grey's Anatomy increased public awareness about sexual assault and how to get help, a study suggests.
On March 28, 2019, the medical drama series aired an episode called Silent All These Years, on the topic of consent and sexual assault. At the end of the episode, series star Ellen Pompeo appealed to viewers to ask for help if they were affected by sexual violence. She explained how to reach the free National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN (800-856-HOPE or via online chat at https://hotline.rainn.org/online/).
To study the impact of that message, researchers analyzed trends on Google and Twitter for 2 weeks before and 1 week after the episode aired.
Trevor Torgerson and colleagues at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa analyzed searches of the terms "Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network", "RAINN", "sexual assault", "rape", "sexual assault hotline", and tweets mentioning @RAINN. They also contacted RAINN to get data on call volumes in the 48 hours after the episode aired.
"Engagements with the @RAINN Twitter account and tweets mentioning 'sexual assault hotline' increased by 1,097per cent the day after the episode," Torgerson, a medical student, told Reuters Health by email.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline call volume increase by 43per cent in the 48 hours after the episode, the authors found.
The volume of searches for the term "RAINN" was 41per cent larger than expected, and search volumes for "rape" and "sexual assault" were 8per cent and 9per cent higher, respectively.
The number of tweets mentioning "sexual assault hotline" and "RAINN" were 1,995per cent and 292per cent higher than usual, respectively.
Google and Twitter are only two measures of public awareness and engagement, the authors note.
Studies have shown audiences learn from – and sometimes act upon – what they see on TV, said Kate Langrall Folb, director of Hollywood, Health & Society at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center in Beverly Hills, California. "That's why it's so important that depictions around health be as accurate as possible."
Hollywood, Health & Society is a free resource on health, safety and security for the entertainment industry. Folb said her team worked with the producers of Grey's Anatomy on the Silent All These Years episode and helped connect them with RAINN.
"TV storylines can have a powerful impact on viewers, and when coupled with an action item, such as a hotline or website, we often see a significant spike in outreach directly afRead More – Source