Review finds media frequently distort violence against women
Wed 02 Dec 2015
Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) has published a Landscapes State of Knowledge paper on media representations ...
Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) has published a Landscapes State of Knowledge paper on media representations of violence against women.
Media representations of violence against women and their children: State of knowledge paper, provides an overview of the best available contemporary evidence on the way news and information media portray violence against women. The paper groups evidence into three broad areas of inquiry and identifies a number of key themes within each area. The three areas of inquiry are:
- "Studies of representation: understanding the nature of the content and discourse in news items on violence against women.
- Studies of audience reception: understanding how audiences interpret news on violence against women and how risk is perceived and managed.
- Studies of news production: understanding the practices of gathering and reporting on violence against women and their children."
These studies found the media "frequently mirrors society's confusion and ambivalence about violence against women." For example, a number of studies found female perpetration of violence accounted for a "high proportion of the total volume of media reports on violence, despite the rarity of these events." A key theme of this inquiry suggests that media perpetuates myths and misrepresentations which skew public perceptions about the perpetrators of violence, who is at risk and where violence occurs.
The paper also found most media on violence against women reinforces rather than challenges cultural and social norms about gender. However it suggests "media can play a role in dispelling myths and reinforcing information about the true nature and extent of the problem."
Key themes in the way news and information media portray violence against women include:
- "not reporting the social context in which male perpetrated violence against women occurs;
- sensationalising stories through language or by disproportionately focusing on stories that fit key news values;
- perpetuating myths and misrepresentations;
- directly and indirectly shifting blame from male perpetrators of violence and assigning responsibility for violence to women; and
- relying on law enforcement as the expert 'voices."
The paper concluded by identifying current gaps in knowledge such as understanding the impact of news coverage on public understanding, attitudes and behaviours and "how to best craft mediated messages to more effectively promote positive change."
The paper notes that themes of national and international media reporting guidelines include recommendations to:
- "report the social context in which male perpetrated violence against women occurs;
- use correct language and terminology;
- avoid blaming the victim;
- avoid offering excuses for men’s violence;
- consider how source selection shapes the story; and
- provide women with information on where to seek help."
New Zealand research and resources
The "Speak up" Media Manual has been produced by the It's Not OK Campaign to support community agencies to use the news pages and bulletins of their local media to raise awareness about family violence.
The It's Not OK Campaign published a summary of the campaign's Media Advocacy Project (2010). The Campaign also commissioned three quarterly media audits to measure changes in the way family violence has been reported by the news media since the media advocacy project began in 2006 (and compared to a baseline sample from 2005). Improvement was measured by the number of stories, size and placement, headline size and content.
The Tauiwi caucus of TOAH-NNEST published Reporting sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand (Wood, Dickson, Tauiwi Caucus of TOAH-NNEST, 2013). The report states, "To support journalists in telling accurate news stories about sexual violence, we undertook an audit of 2012 print media. ... Analysis of the news reports examined how sexual violence was described and who was quoted in the article. We also noted where prevention strategies or interventions were described." The report is also a resource developed to assist journalists to write accurate news stories. It includes recommendations based on current reporting. You can watch a presentation on the media study on YouTube.
Beyond prevalence : an explanatory approach to reframing child maltreatment in the United Kingdom (Kendall-Taylor, Lindland, O'Neill, Stanley, 2014).