Media position statement
At the Compass Centre we work positively with the local media to encourage accurate and sensitive reporting on gender-based violence.
The public takes much of their knowledge about sexual violence from the news, and good reporting can play a really important role in improving understanding of gender-based violence and challenging its place in society.
Unfortunately, irresponsible reporting can reinforce myths about the ‘causes’ of sexual violence. The wrong approach can have a negative impact by encouraging victim blaming, deflecting attention from the perpetrator, and even discouraging survivors from seeking support.
If you’re writing a story relating to gender-based violence, there’s advice through Zero Tolerance.
Best Practice Tips for Reporting on Gender Based Violence
Be Considerate - Report gender-based violence in a way that upholds the victim-survivor’s right to dignity and does not compromise their safety or anonymity. Don’t sensationalise stories with graphic details about the crime, or personal details such as their transgender identity or their involvement in pornography or selling sex.
Don’t blame the victim - Make the perpetrator the subject of the sentence and assign the verb to them. This is how police are encouraged to write their reports, i.e. ‘The perpetrator forced the survivor to…’. Never suggest that violence occurred because of what someone was wearing, what they had drunk, if they had cheated, or any other reason. Perpetrators are responsible for their actions.
Name the crime - Use sexual abuse, assault, harassment, rape, domestic abuse. Instead of sex, sex scandal, non-consensual sex, affair, fondles, caress, domestic dispute, abusive relationship.
Describe the Perpetrator - Use man, perpetrator, offender, abusive partner, rapist, husband, father, son. Instead of fiend, beast, monster, great dad, good guy, respected professional.
Victim or Survivor - Use victim when an attack has resulted in murder, when discussing the crime or criminal justice system, or when someone describes themself as a one. Use survivor when referring to them in all other instances. Or if you have permission, use their name.
Get quotes from experts and survivors - Ask women’s organisations for comment and source case studies through them.
Use statistics to put the story in context - Individual stories of gender-based violence are part of a much larger problem.
Images - Don’t use images that contribute to harmful stereotypes or objectify survivors. There are free to use stock images available here.
Include helplines – it can save lives. Your story might influence people who have experienced or are experiencing the same violence. Providing sources of support can encourage survivors to seek help.
- The Compass Centre – Monday – Thursday 9am – 1.30pm – 01595 747174
- Rape Crisis Scotland – Everyday 6pm – midnight - 08088 01 03 02 / Text: 07537 410 027
- Shetland Women’s Aid – 01595 692070
- Scottish Women’s Aid – 0800 027 1234