The language used to describe domestic violence is often rife with dangerous misconceptions and victim blaming—even when it doesn’t seem obvious. Phrases like “she got hit” versus “he hit her” might sound interchangeable…but one puts the focus and blame squarely on the shoulders of the abuser, which is critical when describing abuse. There’s also a trend for publications to unintentionally rationalize abusive behavior—perhaps by calling it a “crime of passion” or “jealousy” (which, again, indirectly implicates the victim in his or her abuse).
But now, one U.K.-based feminist organization called Level Up has won a fight to improve the way the media report on domestic violence.
The Independent reports that the U.K.’s two top press regulators, IPSO and IMPRESS, have agreed to adopt Level Up’s guidelines for reporting on deaths caused by domestic violence. They include the following recommendations: Avoid depicting domestic homicide as “uncharacteristic” of the perpetrator, use the term “domestic violence” rather than “tragedy” to describe the crime, avoid insensitive or sensational language, and refrain from using stock photos that “that reinforce the myth that it’s only a physical crime.”
According to Level Up’s website, the organization was officially launched in January 2018, thanks to crowdfunding contributions. Some of its previous campaigns include fighting for LGBTQ-inclusive sex education and abortion rights in Northern Ireland.
The Guardian reports that a man named Ryan Hart was part of a coalition that helped write the new media guidelines. He joined the campaign in response to insensitive media coverage after his father killed his mother and sister. Hart told the paper that his father “was Googling for many months about men who murdered their wives and children” before committing his crime.
We’re glad to see these U.K. activists stepping up to make positive and concrete change, and we hope media organizations in the U.S. are taking note.