28 May 2018

Media representations of violence against women and their children: Final report

This report presents the results of a project aimed to establish the extent and nature of reporting of violence against women by the Australian media to inform future strategies for change. There is a clear link between media reporting and attitudes and beliefs in relation to violence against women; with audiences’ emotional responses and attributions of responsibility affected by how the media frames news. The vast majority of reporting on violence against women was “incident based”, looking at tragic individual instances, but not exploring the issue in more depth. Myths and misrepresentations still find their way into reporting. Around 15 % of incident based reporting includes victim blaming, like she was drinking, flirting/went home with the perpetrator, was out alone, they were arguing; 14.8 % of incident based reporting offers excuses for the perpetrator, like he was drinking, using drugs, jealous/seeking revenge, “snapped” or “lost control”. Though the news media can be a powerful source of information for women looking to leave a violent relationship, only 4.3 % of news reports included help seeking information (1800RESPECT or others). The lack of social context in reporting, and thereby the broader public’s understanding of the issue, could also be improved by the inclusion of more expert sources, including domestic violence advocates and those with lived experience of violence. Yet half of all sources were drawn from police and the criminal justice system; only 9.9 % of sources were domestic violence advocates /spokespeople; only 8.7 % were survivors.