Campaigners call for journalists to improve domestic violence reporting

The Dignity for the Dead petition was launched as part of a campaign to prevent media coverage that blames women who have been killed by partners.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Campaigners call for journalists to improve domestic violence reporting - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

When 44-year-old Melanie Clark was stabbed to death by her husband, some of the headlines read “Husband killed his wife after she mocked the size of his penis” and “Wife jibes about penis size and lesbian tryst ‘drove hubby to murder’”.

One of the papers even printed a photo of a woman in her underwear who was reportedly Clark's lover, according to the killer. But the headlines that focus on Clark's sexuality and the inclusion of a picture of her alleged lover place the onus on the victim, instead of the man who killed her.

A new campaign to improve the reporting of domestic violence and the women who die at the hands of abusive partners has just launched in the UK.

A coalition of campaigners and families of victims called Level Up is pushing for more high quality coverage in a new publishing code it hopes the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to accept.

The group says that current media coverage of domestic abuse perpetuates victim-blaming, removes the autonomy of the deceased and puts families at risk.

Reporting on domestic violence deaths requires sensitivity and understanding to improve public understanding and stop future killings.

As the coalition says: "Every bad article on domestic violence is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths."

Details from the story:

  • Level Up has developed guidelines for media outlets to use when reporting on domestic violence deaths.
  • The guidelines outline the academic and legal case for creating them and identify 5 practical tips to help journalists and editors prioritise dignity and avoid common mistakes.
  • For example, all coverage of domestic violence murders should include the phone numbers for helplines and websites for advice.
  • They cover accountability, accuracy, dignity, equality and images.
  • The group has launched a petition called "Dignity For Dead Women" to get IPSO to introduce the guidelines.
  • Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner, according to figures from the latest femicide report by UK domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid.
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