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, power and control, impacts on victims, accountability for perpetrators and systemic issues.
Community sector services 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 domestic, family and sexual violence peak bodies and other key organisations below.
- Our Watch
- Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
- National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence
- National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services
- White Ribbon Australia.
Visit the 1800RESPECT service directory for more specialist organisations and services, throughout Australia.
Survivors as sources
Survivors have always played a critical role in the change we need to see to end violence against women and their children.
Some survivors, their family and friends, want to share their stories in the media so their lived experience and expertise can contribute to the public debate. Others do not.
When reporting on violence, remember that the survivors have been through trauma. The way you treat them and share their story may impact on their healing. Not all those impacted by violence want to speak to the media, and safety is an issue.
A program called Voices for Change: A Media Advocacy Program for the Prevention of Violence Against Women was developed by Our Watch in partnership with Women’s Health East and VicHealth to ensure that women’s stories are shared in a safe, sensitive and responsible way.
Survivors receive media training as part of the Voices for Change program.
These organisations have trained survivor advocates:
- Women’s Health East (Melbourne)
- Domestic Violence NSW (Sydney)
- Engender Equality (Hobart)
- Brisbane Domestic Violence Service (Brisbane)
- Ruah Community Services (Perth)
- Women’s Safety Services South Australia Embolden (Adelaide)
- YWCA and Domestic Violence Crisis Service (Canberra)
Contacting a survivor for comment
If you’re a journalist looking for a survivor to provide comment on a story, you can contact the above organisations directly.
Seven tips for interviewing 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 survivor and 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 and the 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 violence against women in the family context is often hidden – community members cannot know what happens ‘behind closed doors’.