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A new report highlights outmoded media stereotypes about domestic violence.
Recently published research into how newspapers report domestic violence has caught the eye of our family solicitor, Steve Johnston.
The University of Hertfordshire report suggests that over a ten year period, there has been no discernible change in the medium or the message when it comes to one section of the press at best trivialising domestic violence and often using it just for entertainment. You can read the report here:
Steve tracked down one of the report's authors, Dr Michele Lloyd, Senior Lecturer at the School of Education at the University, for a chat about the report.
SJ: Michele, you highlight a recurrence of stories where the language puts the blame for the relationship going wrong, and even the violence, on the victim.
ML: Yes, there has been in the Sun at least, a preponderance of stories giving the public the impression that partner violence is committed by those who are made to "snap" by the victim, whether it is an affair or something else. The presentation is "it takes two" for violence to happen.
SJ: You don't get that element, or it seems only rarely, with the reporting of stranger violence. What sort of effects do you see from this presentation of "victims to blame"?
ML: For one thing, I suspect it's why we end up with women undergoing on average 35 incidents before reporting domestic violence. (This figure comes from a crime study quoted in a 2011 speech that Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, made when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.)
SJ: There's a lot of work going on to get society to accept and acknowledge how serious domestic violence is. The progressive media seem to me to get that and to highlight it. Are we making any headway in tackling this?
ML: Some. In general, I think we need to focus on how difficult it can be for someone to escape from partner violence, because of a myriad of issues such as their complex feelings for the abusive partner, or there may be children, the parties' finances are inter-dependent and their lives are interlinked in so many ways, or sometimes there are feelings of shame or embarrassment at not wanting other friends and family to find out. It's a long way from being a secondary or less important type of violence. If these points are more widely understood, and the media has an important role to play in that, I think we start to tackle the incidence of partner violence and do more to protect potential victims, because society as a whole will become much readier to disavow it and not to tolerate it.
SJ: Thank you, pleasure speaking with you.
If you are or you know someone affected by these issues or you are having relationship issues and you need to talk to someone about your options for separation, please call us in complete confidence on 020 8290 0333 for an appointment with our family lawyer Steve Johnston.