Our Watch

Skip to content

Guidelines for reporting violence against women

5 minute read

Evidence-based media reporting on violence against women and their children can help readers, listeners and viewers understand how widespread itis, who is affected, what drives it and 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, in 2018 the New South Wales Government referredthe state’s sexual consent laws to the Law Reform Commission, following a Four Corners investigation into a high-profile rape trial. 

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’ and ‘murder’.

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:

  • 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 media guidelines 

What's next?

Sources and interviewing