Lurid headlines, sleazy details, and inappropriate photos have to stop

Web media interview

Lydia House on why poor reporting of violence against women is still a major issue ahead of Zero Tolerance’s Write to End Violence Against Women awards

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19th September 2016 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

Provocative images, victim blaming myths, and out of date stereotypes: the media doesn’t always have the best reputation for reporting violence against women.

While Scotland has made great strides in its attitude to domestic abuse in recent years, men’s violence against women is still almost mundane in its regularity. In the UK two women every week are killed by their male partner (or former partner). Male violence against women and girls is a complex and wide ranging social problem, including domestic abuse, sexual violence and rape, as well as so-called "honour" crimes and forced marriage.

The press and media have a huge influence on the way people perceive violence against women. Unfortunately, this means the influence of bad reporting – where it exists – contributes to those myths and stereotypes.

Lurid headlines, sleazy details, and inappropriate photos have to stopLydia House

Journalists, editors, and other media professionals have the choice to report truthfully and aid public understanding of violence against women

At Zero Tolerance we have recognised this problem and monitor news coverage of violence against women. On a regular basis we see headlines that mention the perpetrator’s prestigious career, as if it were somehow relevant to the fact that he beat his wife. The alcohol consumption of a victim is mentioned alongside her rape, as if it could all have been avoided. And perhaps most subtle is the suggestion that these acts of assault or even murder are ‘a shock’, have come ‘out of the blue’. That the perpetrator was a ‘nice guy’, a ‘well-liked man in the community’. By failing to situate these acts in the continuum of men’s violence, they are swept under the rug and the root causes are never tackled.

It may be tempting to brush off lurid headlines, sleazy details, and inappropriate photos as simply a tactic, designed to reel people in and sell papers. But this type of a writing is the product of a culture that excuses men’s violence. This is why Zero Tolerance created the Write to End Violence Against Women awards. Now in their fourth year, the awards celebrate the journalists, writers, and bloggers who are making the effort to report on violence against women responsibly, who are listening to the experts, and who aren’t feeding into a narrative that seeks to explain away domestic abuse.

Journalists, editors, and other media professionals have the choice to report truthfully and aid public understanding of violence against women, or to fall back on stereotypes and sensationalism. There are already many writers who are putting in the work and shining a light on the root causes of men’s violence against women; by celebrating these we can pave the way forward for a new and better media in Scotland.

Professional journalists, student writers, and weekend bloggers all have the chance to be rewarded for good writing about violence against women. There is also the dubious honour of being awarded the ‘Wooden Spoon’ for bad reporting on violence against women.

The deadline for submissions is 30 September. Keep an eye on the website, Facebook, and Twitter for more information, including details of those shortlisted. 

Lydia House is media and events officer at Zero Tolerance.

Comments

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23rd November 2016 by Lorraine Prince

Great work, though I am disappointed that you don't acknowledge female violence against men and the way that is almost never reported on or taken seriously. It's still seen as funny or harmless, when in fact it too ruins lives.