How to Record Violence Against Women?
Domestic violence is a complex problem, which in society is not yet fully understood. However, the information provided by the media is having a significant impact and can change the current situation. Therefore when you write or record writing about it, consider the following:
- Do not forget to emphasize that the case is that of domestic violence and not just a mere incident.
For example, instead of recording “John killed wife Mary”, record that “John killed wife Mary during a domestic violence incident”.
- Avoid identifying domestic violence as a family, relationship problem, a domestic conflict. By doing so you will make a false impression and describe systemic violence as a spontaneous conflict and send a message that both partners are equally responsible for domestic violence. Violence is the manifestation of power misbalance where the role of a perpetrator does not change. The perpetrator should be solely responsible for violence.
- Be as precise as possible about the known facts. Be careful on the focus of you message and try to emphasize the behaviour of the perpetrator.
Instead of writing “the woman has been attacked by a man”, state “husband attacked his wife”. Make sure that when writing about the victim, you do not make the perpetrator unseen.
- When providing statistics, avoid statements like “x women have experienced violence/ were raped”, rather state “x men were abusive/ raped”. In your message mention the perpetrators and the victims or only the perpetrators, never write only about the victims. By only writing that, for example, “Mary experienced violence”, you will distract the attention from John, who was violent with her. Therefore, it is important to write: “John was beating Mary”.
- Avoid the word allegedly, when talking about the actions of the perpetrator.
Instead of saying “the woman was allegedly attacked by her husband”, indicate “the woman reported (to the police) that she was attacked by her spouse”.
- Avoid the descriptions of a victim’s behaviour: encouraged, provoked, asked for it, etc. Do not doubt the adequacy of the victim’s behaviour. Emphasize the behaviour, actions, motives of the perpetrator.
- In the case of sexual violence, do not discuss the appearance of a victim (for example, “the victim was wearing a short dress”), the details of her sexual life, do not assess her behaviour (for example, “the witnesses saw her cuddle during the dance with the suspect”). Such a description of a situation shifts the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.
- Do not think about why the women who have experienced violence stay with the perpetrator or return back after some time. Such considerations distract the reader’s attention from the behaviour of the perpetrator and shift the burden of responsibility on the victim. Trying to explain her actions create preconditions for justifying the perpetrators actions. When encouraging the victim to leave the perpetrator it is assumed that it is the woman who is responsible for the actions of the perpetrator (even though she cannot construct aggressor’s behaviour), and the perpetrator escapes the responsibility.
- Avoid saying “violence against women”, as this makes one think that something is wrong with the women. Speak about “Men’s violence towards women”, in such a way you focus on an improper behaviour of some men.
- Do not relate domestic violence to abuse of alcohol or drugs. Do not make assumptions that violence was provoked by psychotropic substances. Violence is a conscious action by a perpetrator, his/ her choice and belief that he/ she can resort to violence. Do not spread the myth that being under influence has a direct relation with violence. People who do not consume alcohol also resort to domestic violence.
- Do not picture a perpetrator as a monster. Many of them are respected members of the society, who have important duties, are appreciated by friends and colleagues, are loving parents, sons and are known as charismatic people in public. By picturing them as monsters we distract people from the fact that different men resort to violence and violence is a conscious action.
- Do not picture a perpetrator as a pervert, sick, not normal. This stigmatises disabled people and undermines the fact of everyday sexism, which is based on the superiority of a man and power demonstration with regard to women. Men who think that they have a right to do so resort to violence against women.
- Violence is a conscious action, therefore do not picture a perpetrator as a man to whom something just happened. The aggressor is conscious about who, when and how to resort to violence.
- Do not deny the fact that the cases of domestic violence reveal the gender gap. The statements as: “men also experience violence” or “women also resort to violence” belittle the scale of violence that women experience. The statements should be based on statistics, focusing that gender is a very important aspect when speaking about domestic violence (80% of all victims of domestic violence are women, and more than 90% of all perpetrators are men; men often suffer domestic violence from other men). Provide national or (and) regional statistics.
- Inform the readers where to turn for help (regional and national help centres, help line contacts).