“Women killed by their partners do not have dignified deaths, the least they should be afforded is dignity after death. We also owe this to their children and relatives - grief can be compounded by careless media reporting. We need to care more, not less.”Liz Kelly CBE, Professor and Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University
Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Some of these deaths attract media attention, yet due to a lack of guidance, domestic violence deaths are often reported in a way that compromises the dignity of the deceased woman and her surviving family. It's time to put an end to bad reporting, which has lasting traumatic impacts on surviving family members.
IPSO is the largest press governing body in the UK, and it's time they introduce guidelines on reporting domestic violence deaths:
- Accountability: Place responsibility solely on the killer, which means avoiding speculative “reasons” or “triggers”, or describing the murder as an uncharacteristic event. Homicides are usually underpinned by a longstanding sense of ownership, coercive control and possessive behaviours: they are not a random event.
- Accuracy: Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Violence Helpline at the end of the article: 0808 2000 247.
- Dignity: Avoid sensationalising language, invasive or graphic details that compromise the dignity of the dead woman or her surviving family members.
- Equality: Avoid insensitive or trivialising language or images.
- Images: Avoid using stock images that reinforce the myth that it’s only a physical crime.
Every bad article on domestic violence is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths. Responsible reporting can improve public understanding of domestic violence, help victims and their families seek justice and help women at risk access support.