The media is the largest, broadest and deepest form of communication to the masses. With that unyielding power comes colossal pressure and responsibility to convey messages and share information in an accurate, reliable way with integrity and empathy. Unfortunately, the dynamo that is media sometimes drops the ball and stories are delivered in a biased or uninformed fashion. It should come as no surprise then that domestic violence victims many times get maligned, slighted or treated unfairly in the news.
According to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology, domestic violence victim-blaming is still very prevalent and pervasive, the scope of the domestic violence incident is often limited and short-sighted, and the media news is rife with classist, racist and sexist overtones.
What a disservice to our victims, survivors, and their families when their voice is further suppressed when it comes to reporting the full reality of what it really means to be a domestic violence abuser, victim, survivor, bystander or first responder. This re-victimization can provide an enormous platform for the normalization of abuse, the exacerbation of rape culture and the continuation of survivor insensitivity to prevail.
How can we combat the media juggernauts of the world? By educating them. By correcting them when data is wrongly reported. By delivering stories of our own that are compassionately comprehensive and survivor-specific.
The Oregon Coalition of Domestic and Sexual Violence offers a list of what reporters should do and not do when covering news stories about domestic violence. Advocates, agencies, law enforcement and other officials who partner with the media can also help journalists adhere to these trauma-informed recommendations when reporting.
- Know the facts
- Cover all parties
- Seek expert comment
- Share resources
- Blame anger or drugs
- Harass the victim’s family
Despite the myriad of challenges and barriers domestic violence victims and survivors may face in order to be in control of their own voice, the gatekeeper of their own narrative and to know their rights, there are resources available. For information on how domestic violence victims can work with the media, check out Hope Domestic Violence Homicide Help by logging onto https://domesticviolencehomicidehelp.com/media-coverage-domestic-violence-homicides/.
Written by Shawn Guy, program manager of the Conference on Crimes Against Women.