Our Watch trials domestic violence curriculum at Macleay College.
It's been a while since the sun shone on Parkville, Melbourne. Far below grey skies, bouquets of yellow roses litter the ground where dog walkers found Courtney Herron's body at a quarter-past nine on the morning of May 25. Ms. Herron is reportedly the 20th Australian woman murdered this year. Recently, Aiia Maasarwe, Eurydice Dixon and Natalina Angok tragically lost their lives in similar circumstances.
Violence against women is a severe and widespread problem in Australia. Although mainstream media has focused on the spate of random attacks in Melbourne, 62% of women experience violence in their own homes. Tragically, 73% of victims experience multiple incidents of domestic violence. The majority have children in their care.
In April, Macleay lecturer and freelance reporter Jess Hill prepared and delivered two lecturers on reporting violence against women in conjunction with Our Watch. Head of Journalism Fiona West explains that Jess has a wealth of experience in this area, having researched and reported on domestic violence for the past four years. "Her introductory lecture explained violence against women while debunking stereotypes and myths," says Fiona. "The second lecture focused on how to report on this important topic – something that is becoming an increasing necessity for general reporters."
Macleay News Research & Media and News Entrepreneurship lecturer Jess Hill.
Jess is a renowned investigative ABC journalist and former Middle East correspondent. Her long-form reporting on domestic violence saw her awarded the inaugural Women's Leadership in Media Award in 2017, which "recognises the outstanding journalistic contribution to the coverage of gender equality and full participation of women in society." Jess's book on domestic violence, See What You Made Me Do, is due to be released in June.
We've summarised tips from Our Watch on how to responsibly report domestic violence:
When reporting on female victims of abuse, use the term 'domestic violence' if it applies. Language like 'bashing', used in many reports about Herron's murder, draws attention away from the perpetrator.
Reports on violence must never compromise the security of a survivor. Check with your subjects to see if they consent to your copy, feel safe to disclose and would like a pseudonym used.
Violence Is Not OK
In your writing, make it evident that perpetrators are solely responsible for a violent situation. Avoid using language or framing a story in a way that victim-blames. Domestic violence is life-threatening. Do not trivialise it.
Acknowledge Victims and Perpetrators
Many headlines focus only on victims of violence as if it 'just happens' to women. Emphasise who perpetrated this assault and that it was a crime.
Not Just Stranger Danger
Somebody known to the victim almost always enacts violence against women. Where there is a relationship between survivor and perpetrator, acknowledge it.
Domestic violence creates feelings of intense shame and vulnerability in victims. When reporting, uphold the survivor's right to dignity. Give interviewees as much time as possible to tell their story. Check consent and allow them to review copy. Contextualise their experience with statistics and acknowledge that gendered violence occurs in a broader context of sexism.
Where relevant, your reporting should show an understanding of women at particular risk of violence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be admitted to hospital for family violence-related injuries. Women for whom English is a second language, women with disabilities and those in rural and remote communities are at particular risk of violence.
Healing is Lifelong
Victims of domestic violence are at higher risk of high blood pressure, smoking and obesity. Beyond immediate physical injuries, survivors may suffer brain damage and issues with pregnancy. Victims are more likely to commit suicide, with one in five Australian cases of female depression triggered by domestic violence.
If you need help or need to talk to someone call Lifeline on 13 11 14.