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Press Regulators To Adopt Guidelines On Reporting Fatal Incidents of Domestic Abuse

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The organisation ‘Level Up’ has won its campaign calling for the media to change the way it reports on fatal incidents of domestic violence.

The UK’s two leading press regulators, IPSO and IMPRESS, are set to adopt guidelines in a bid to combat irresponsible reporting that campaigners say exacerbates the trauma for families of domestic homicide victims.

The guidelines, set out by Level Up, instruct journalists how to report on domestic abuse in the safest and most sensitive way possible. They were written by a coalition of academics, survivors’ families and representatives from domestic violence charities.

Five tips are included, all of which emphasise the need for sensitive journalism that is neither sensational nor speculative and preserves the dignity of the deceased. This, Level Up states, is primarily achieved by avoiding certain language and imagery.

What Are The Guidelines?

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.

Accuracy: Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Violence Helpline at the end of the

Dignity: Avoid sensationalising language, invasive or graphic details that compromise the dignity of the dead woman or her surviving family members.

Equality: Avoid insensitive or trivialising language or images

Images: Avoid using stock images that reinforce the myth that it’s only a physical crime.

Level Up was founded in 2016 by a group of feminist campaigners and aims to tackle sexism in the UK through activism and education.

“In a country where two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner, it’s in our national interest to make sure these deaths are reported on accurately and sensitively. Too often journalists report on crimes of control as crimes of passion, now there is no excuse for bad reporting.”

“It’s a huge step towards greater public awareness of the risk factors of domestic homicide”.

Janey Starling, campaign director for Level Up

“Perpetrators of domestic abuse seek to belittle and control their partners, and domestic homicide is the ultimate expression of that control. Far too much media coverage cloaks this by selling the myth of the good guy who loses control. For family and friends who have lost a loved one this adds insult to the injury of the loss they feel, as well as  underplaying the deadly intent of domestic murders to the wider public.”

Donna Covey CBE, chief executive of the charity AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)

More information about Domestic Homicide Reviews can be found on our dedicated page.

If you are over 18, and would like support please call 0800 408 1552 or visit the Refuge Warwickshire website.

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