Guest blog: How the media report domestic abuse and sexual violence

Working with Angles is a good reminder to me that positive change really can be encouraged and influenced when you bring the right people together in the right format and facilitate a real conversation.

Working with Angles is a good reminder to me that positive change really can be encouraged and influenced when you bring the right people together in the right format and facilitate a real conversation! 

Angles: A Different Take on Sexual and Domestic Abuse is an On Road Media project (now Heard). They bring media influencers together with people with lived experience of sexual violence and domestic abuse, and/or who work in the sector, promoting new content and a better understanding of the issues. 

The recent interaction between 14 survivors and/or practitioners and 14 members of IPSO on how the media report domestic violence and sexual abuse was an honour to facilitate. 

As a survivor myself, I’m drawn towards trying to make the system, processes and outside world that affect other survivors better than it was for me. To encourage greater understanding and more support to help survivors recover fully from their trauma. 

IPSO work with charities, NGOs and other organisations to support and improve press standards. We met with staff and trustees as they begin to look at how to improve their guidelines for journalists reporting sexual crimes and offences. 

Charlotte Urwin, Head Of Standards at IPSO told us: 

“IPSO is committed to helping journalists to comply with the Editors’ Code of Practice, including when reporting on sexual violence. It’s vital that we don’t just speak to journalists when working in this area, but also to survivors of sexual violence and those who support them. 

The interaction run by Angles was a fantastic way of meeting survivors and supporters. We were able to have in-depth conversations about some very difficult topics, including the impact of the terminology used to describe sexual violence and the positive impact that sensitive media coverage can have in encouraging other people to come forward about their experiences. I really enjoyed the interaction and was able to make connections with lots of fantastic people, who I know we will want to speak to in the future!” 

On the interaction, participants came from a range of organisations like Hestia and SafeLives, as well as activists who have written books or performances based on their experiences, and who campaign and speak publicly about these issues and their experiences. 

The interaction reminded me that there are consequences to actions, both positive and negative. The media was positively responsible for inspiring me to speak my own truth after I saw the Jimmy Saville scandal exposed. It showed me the current world was ready to take care of survivors in a different way to twenty years earlier when I had been raped. 

I’ve also been on the flip side of this, as the media would have liked to publish my story but in a way I felt would have sensationalised, named and shamed a man who had already served his punishment and create fear and division among the nation. Not something I believe will bring about a more peaceful society. 

It’s true that the media industry has both a responsibility and an opportunity to educate and create awareness of what it’s really like to be a survivor of sexual violence whilst at the same time making sure their businesses survive. It’s a fine line to tread and a complex subject area. 

That’s why I’m delighted that as a group of survivors, supporters and frontline workers in the sector, we were able to connect with the members of IPSO in a meaningful way to help them shape guidelines that will help media professionals to maintain standards and conscience in publishing such news. 

We look forward to more updates on IPSO’s progress on the new guidance this year. 


Originally published 8 February 2018.