Police and community members are important sources, but they are not the only sources.
Half the sources used in reporting about violence against women are from the police or criminal justice system1. Only around 10 per cent of sources are violence against women specialists and only around nine per cent are survivors of violence2.
Violence against women specialists and survivors can add an important dimension to your reporting on this issue.
Specialist sources include domestic, family and sexual violence organisations, services and academics. Violence against women specialists can talk about the nature of violence, why it happens, underlying drivers, power and control, impacts on victims, accountability for perpetrators and systemic issues.
Community-sector services, in particular, have relatively few resources and may be unable to provide comment at short notice. Building relationships with these services may help to facilitate more urgent requests for comment.
Find a list of national and state-based domestic, family and sexual violence peak bodies and other key organisations below.
With the right support, survivors and their family and friendscan share their stories in the media and give a human face to the statistics about violence against women. When communities can see and hear women tell their stories they are more likely to empathise and engage with the issue.
Women speaking out publicly about their experiences can also provide a catalyst for the change needed to end violence against women. For example, Rosie Batty’s advocacy helped to bring about the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and the reversal of federal funding cuts to the legal assistance sector.
When reporting on violence, remember that the survivors have been through trauma and the way you share their story may impact on their healing. Watch the video below about the impact of reporting on survivors.
Avoid approaching survivors or their families in the immediate aftermath of an incident when they are still in shock and may be unable to fully comprehend what they are consenting to by speaking to you.
Ensure you have informed consent to disclose elements of their story, and where possible, give them the opportunity to review the way they are referred to or quoted.
Be mindful of the power imbalance between you and the survivorand seek to provide them with as much control over things as possible.
Talk to survivors about current and emerging safety issues that may arise from speaking with you, including social media safety, public backlash and having a plan for the day the story comes out.
Give them as much time as possible to tell their story and ask open ended questions, such as ‘are you able to tell me about what happened?’
Ask how they want to be identified and referred to, for example, as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’, ‘woman with a disability’ rather than ‘disabled woman’.
Explain what will happen after the interview, including fact-checking andthe right to reply, so that these are not interpreted as you ‘not believing’ their story, and advise if the story will be delayed or not published.
Police as sources
Police can describe ‘incidents’ of crime.While this can be useful, some problems with this include that:
violence against women is usually non-criminal
domestic violence is not a single ‘incident’ – it is a pattern of abuse
most violence against women goes unreported.
Community members as sources
Neighbours, friends, family and colleagues can tell you about their perceptions of the relationship, the perpetrator and the victim. This can be problematic because domestic violence is usually hidden – community members cannot know what happens ‘behind closed doors’.