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Reporting on Domestic and Family Violence: A Notice from Our Watch

Helen Henry, 15th May 2018
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Recent events in Western Australia have once again raised the issue of family violence and the urgent need for greater public awareness of this widespread social problem.

Our Watch, the national organisation founded to prevent violence against women and their children, has made the below urgent request to media:

Dear journalist,

The shocking murders in WA’s Margaret River on Friday once again raise the issue of family violence and the urgent need for greater public awareness of this widespread social problem.

Our Watch CEO Mary Barry has issued an urgent request that any media reports on the tragedy include the issue of family violence and for media to speak to authorities in this field – such as survivors of this type of violence, and experts working in family violence services. 

Our Watch has produced guidelines on reporting of domestic violence which are freely available online.

The guidelines include statistics on family violence in Australia that may be useful to journalists reporting on the WA tragedy.

The guidelines also include the key advice that domestic violence should always be named as such, and not minimalised or trivialised by calling it other things.

Ms Barry said it was vital to include voices in addition to law and order officials and neighbours or others who knew the alleged perpetrator.

“I cannot stress how important it is that media include the details of family violence support services such as 1800-RESPECT in all reports on the Margaret River murders,” Ms Barry said.

Ms Barry supported comments by Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Pamela Townshend, who said that the murders should lead to more discussion about family violence.

Without speculating on the unconfirmed details of the Margaret River tragedy, Ms Barry said it was important for the media and the public to be reminded about the prevalence of family violence in all socio-demographic groups.

“We know, for example, that one woman in Australia is murdered by her current or former partner each week and 657 family violence incidents are dealt with every day by police,” Ms Barry said.

“There is an urgent need to challenge any comments that normalise or excuse male violence,” she added.

“This includes publishing or broadcasting comments that ascribe the alleged perpetrator’s actions to stress or other factors,” Ms Barry said.

Ms Barry emphasised the need to avoid framing the story in ways that suggest the circumstances somehow explain or excuse the violence.

“It is understandable that comments like these appear in reports, as journalists are aiming to report new information as it comes to hand. However, the nation’s major media outlets should consider their responsibility to represent all aspects of this devastating situation.”

Experts available for interview:

Fiona McCormack
CEO Domestic Violence Victoria
M: 0433 760 426
E: annieblatchford@dvvic.org.au 

Moo Baluch
CEO Domestic Violence NSW
M: 0400 926 192
E: ceo@dvnsw.org.au 

Survivors:

Dr Ann O’Neill – Our Watch Ambassador and Founder and Chair of angelhands, a victim support organisation.
Dr O’Neill’s ex-partner murdered her two children and tried to kill her as well. She is available to discuss the impact of reporting on survivors of violence.
M: 0409 116 551

Rebecca Poulson – Our Watch Ambassador, writer and public speaker.
Ms Poulson's father, niece and nephew were murdered by her brother-in-law, the children's father.
M: 0490 607097
E: rebeccapoulson@yahoo.com  

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