Guidelines for reporting violence against women
5 minute read
- Evidence-based reporting
- How to report on violence against women and their children
- Eight tips for reporting violence against women
- Reporting violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Tips for improving sports reporting on violence against women
- Tips for reporting sexual harrassment
Evidence-based media reporting on violence against women and their children can help readers, listeners and viewers understand:
- how widespread violence against women is
- who is affected
- what drives it
- how it can be prevented.
Reporting can also help influence:
- how women and their children understand their experiences of violence and their decisions about whether to speak out or seek support.
- the way perpetrators understand their choices to use violence and whether to seek support to change their behaviour.
- public policy and legislation – for example, the #LetHerSpeak campaign to abolish sexual assault victim gag laws in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria, allowing survivors to share their stories publicly.
How to report on violence against women and their children
Watch the video below to find out more about reporting on violence against women and their children.
Eight tips for reporting violence against women
1. Safety first
Leave out details that might identify survivors.
2. Name it
Name the violence for what it is: ‘violence against women’, ‘family violence’, ‘psychological violence’, ‘elder abuse’, ‘child exploitation material’, ‘rape’, ‘murder’, ‘coercive control’ or ‘non-physical abuse’.
3. Keep the perpetrator in view
Use active language, for example ‘man assaults wife’ instead of ‘woman assaulted’. Where safe and legally possible, name the relationship between victim and perpetrator to remind your audience that most violence against women is perpetrated by somebody they know.
4. Be respectful
Use respectful language and headlines to articulate the seriousness of the violence. Seek to uphold the dignity and humanity of the victims, survivors and their families. Plan how to maintain respect once the story is live, including social media.
5. Reflect the evidence
Use statistics to demonstrate the prevalence and to contextualise the story. Evidence shows that most violence against women and their children is driven by gender inequality.
6. Use appropriate imagery
Don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes about gender, race, disability, sexuality or age. Consider the impact of images on the victim-survivor, their family, or on other survivors of violence. Avoid images that disempower or infantilise victim-survivors, such as ‘clenched fists’ or ‘cowering women’.
7. Quote experts
Develop good relationships with violence against women experts so they can be contacted to help put the issue into context.
8. Include support options
Always include support details at the end of every story.
Reporting violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
There is a long history of misrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly when reporting on violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
It is the media’s responsibility to ensure that reporting does not contribute to this harm, or to the harm experienced by survivors, their families and communities.
When reporting on violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children:
- avoid damaging stereotypes, observe cultural protocols and consider your sources carefully
- highlight the impacts of colonisation, including racism, dispossession, intergenerational trauma, forced child removal and entrenched poverty, and how these intersect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experiences of violence.
Read more about reporting on violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the National reporting guidelines and in Diversity Australia’s handbook, Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Issues.
Media Changing the Story: Media guidelines for the Northern Territory was created to support media professionals and act as a reference when reporting domestic and family violence in the Northern Territory. These guidelines were produced by Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group, Tangentyere Council and Galiwin’ku Women’s Space with support from Northern Territory Government and the Australian National University Gender Institute.
Tips for improving sports reporting on violence against women
Our Watch has also produced a list of tips for sports journalists. Sports media can reinforce the attitudes and beliefs that drive violence against women, or it can challenge these attitudes and beliefs.
Read our 10 tips for sports journalists.
Tips for reporting sexual harrassment
Evidence-based media reporting on sexual harassment can change the attitudes and behaviours that drive violence against women.
Read our 12 tips about reporting on sexual harassment that will help you cover common scenarios you may encounter in your work.