14th Jun 2019 SET Domestic Homicide Review ReportsDocument

Media guidelines to help journalists report on domestic violence deaths

Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.

Some of these deaths attract media attention, but due to a lack of guidance, domestic homicides are too often reported in a way that compromises the dignity of the deceased woman and her living family.

In consultation with a coalition of domestic violence experts and victims’ families, Level Up have produced media guidelines to help journalists report on domestic violence deaths in a dignified way.

Here are the five things to remember:

  1. Accountability: Place responsibility solely on the killer, which means avoiding speculative “reasons” or “triggers”, or describing the murder as an uncharacteristic event. Homicides are usually underpinned by a longstanding sense of ownership, coercive control and possessive behaviours: they are not a random event.
  2. Accuracy: Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Violence Helpline at the end of the article: 0808 2000 247.
  3. Dignity: Avoid sensationalising language, invasive or graphic details that compromise the dignity of the dead woman or her surviving family members.
  4. Equality: Avoid insensitive or trivialising language or images.
  5. Images: Avoid using stock images that reinforce the myth that it’s only a physical crime.

Every bad article on domestic violence is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths. Responsible reporting can improve public understanding of domestic violence, help victims and their families seek justice and help women at risk access support.

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