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Women killed by violence needs accurate reporting and national toll

Media Release
Larissa Waters 20 Feb 2020

The Greens are calling for an urgent crisis response to the number of women killed by violence and greater accuracy in media reporting following the murder of a Brisbane-based mother and three children by their father yesterday.

“There have now been eight women killed by violence in 2020, after 61 were murdered last year, yet there was more response from the Prime Minister to the needles-in-strawberry incident,” said Greens Senate Leader and spokesperson for women, Senator Larissa Waters.

Senator Waters will next week move a motion in parliament for the Senate to urge all media outlets to comply with the Press Council Advisory Guidelines and Commercial Radio Guidelines on reporting family violence.

“Yesterday a man murdered his young children and his ex-wife - and some media reported it as if the father was also a victim, and noted his sporting history. This is disgusting and such reporting contributes to the culture of violence by downplaying it,” she said.

“The minimising of this man’s actions in some of the passive media reporting of this murder is appalling, and while perpetrators are portrayed as ‘just good men who are hurting’ the culture of violence and entitlement will never end.

“Too many media outlets have shown themselves incapable of reporting the reality of violence against women so next week I will move for the Senate to remind all media outlets of the Guidelines on reporting family violence.

“Every sitting fortnight I move a motion in the federal parliament counting the number of women killed by violence.

“Every time it begs for the government to properly fund frontline domestic violence services, to fund prevention programs, and to keep and publicise a national toll of women killed like the road toll – to keep this issue in the public eye and contribute to changing the culture that allows it to continue.
“Every time it passes without a vote, and every time the government continues to do nothing.

“I have twice written to Minister for Women Marise Payne about establishing a national and publicised toll of women killed by violence, much like the road toll serves to increase awareness of the need for road safety, but have had no response.
“This government needs to treat the epidemic of violence against women and their children as a national crisis and urgently take meaningful action to keep it citizens safe.
“We will never forget these precious little lives lost and their dear mother Hannah Baxter, nor all the other women and children killed by men,” Senator Waters said.


Relevant extracts of the Press Council Advisory Guidelines:

Reporting of family violence should try not to blame a person affected by the violence or suggest that the person somehow enabled the violence or could have avoided it. Publications should also avoid placing undue emphasis on the characteristics or surroundings of the victim, or implying that such things contributed to the family violence, unless doing so is essential to the narrative and sufficiently in the public interest. Use of the active voice in relation to the perpetrator will help avoid placing undue emphasis on the person affected by family violence. For example: “Police charged a 38-year-old Melbourne man with the murder of a 36-year-old woman”, as opposed to, e.g. “A 36- year-old woman was murdered and a 38-year-old Melbourne man has been charged”.
Context and content

Words matter. Publications should be mindful of the language they use and try to avoid terms that tend to trivialise, demean or inadvertently excuse family violence, such as “a domestic”, “a domestic dispute” or “a troubled marriage”. Where it is lawful to do so, the relationships of the people involved should be described as accurately and precisely as possible. In addition to reporting particular incidents, journalists can play a critical role in deepening readers’ understanding about family violence by referring to resources such as official statistics, peerreviewed research, and experts, such as domestic violence counsellors and survivors. Publications should also be aware of the potential impact of story layout, headlines and surrounding material (such as advertisements) that may be insensitive or jarring in the circumstances.
Relevant extracts of the Commercial Radio guidelines:
Violence is never acceptable
The perpetrator is always solely responsible for a violent situation. Avoid using language or framing the story in a way that suggests the survivor of violence was in any way to blame for what happened to him or her.
Acknowledge that this crime has both a victim and a perpetrator
Domestic violence is sometimes reported with headlines like ‘Woman assaulted’, or with stories that focus only on what happened to the survivor. This can suggest that violence is something that ‘just happens’ to women. Emphasise that someone perpetrated this violence, and that it was a crime.

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