For Tougher Press Guidelines On Covering Domestic Abuse

Why the press regulator should create new guidelines similar to those used when covering suicides

The Editors’ Code of Practice Committee should consider laying down stricter guidelines on how journalists cover domestic abuse.

The research of Lundy Bancroft, a psychologist who specialises in domestic abuse, suggests the more abusers are able — and enabled — to rationalise their abuse and shift the blame of their abuse onto their partners, the more likely they are to continue to abuse and eventually kill their partners.

Yet several articles I’ve seen in the UK Press recently covering stories of domestic abuse have led with the very rationale that the abusers used to kill their wives and ex-wives. Not just reporting it but actually emphasizing it.

Here are just two of many examples:

Husband who “just flipped” and strangled his wife during lockdown found not guilty of murder

https://twitter.com/BBCNews/status/1361301582105645061

This article on Mail Online:

‘Made my kids turn their backs on me’: Chilling last Facebook post of estranged husband, 40, who knifed his NHS worker ex, 39, and her daughter, 24, to death before dying in crash in ‘double murder-suicide’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9227763/Three-dead-Kilmarnock-night-chaos-Woman-39-dies-hospital-injured-car-park.html

Headlines like these imply the attackers have a good reason or a legitimate justification to kill their partners. How can it be right that we know the murderer’s specious rationale for their behaviour before we’ve even been told the victim’s name?

It is for this reason, I believe the Editor’s Code should be changed to provide guidelines on how journalists cover domestic abuse in a similar way to how IPSO enforces guidelines on how journalists should treat their coverage of suicide. With more emphasis on the facts of the case and less emphasis on the gory details and the abuser’s rationale for his abhorrent actions.

This morning I wrote the Editors’ Code of Practice Committe with my suggestions — I’ll update you as soon as I receive a reply.

Thank you for reading — I hope you found my thoughts interesting. You can find me on Twitter: @Sayde_Scarlett

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