18 women have been murdered by known or suspected male violence in the first 60 days of 2015 in Australia. 9 of these 18 women are believed to have been murdered by their former or current male partners. 4 of these 9 women had either Domestic Violence Orders in place, or a history of domestic violence that was known to police, one woman was seeking tighter restrictions.
“The biggest threat to Australians is obviously poor health, but for women under 45, the biggest cause of injury or death is violence from a current or former male partner. We see the Federal Government creating splashy campaigns, but overall defunding the area drastically and taking control of it away from the women with built-up expertise, towards religious groups with dubious records. So we don’t need rhetoric about over-hyped terrorist threats, but a government that acts in women’s interests.” – Virginia Brown, Reclaim The Night Perth
What is happening instead, is a repeated narrative in media reporting that undermines the male violence happening to women in Australia, even when this male violence kills them.
* In the recent murder of a 28 year old woman in the ACT, The Canberra Times, with little information known at the time, failed to interview community experts on domestic violence. This would have helped put this murder into context for their readers. Instead they interviewed a resident of the neighbourhood, who told readers this violence was “out of character for the area”, adding “The worst thing in this area is people using the street as a racetrack”.
“Male violence against women is not out of character. It happens right across Australia, week in, week out; year in, year out.” Liz Waterhouse, Reclaim The Night Perth
We know most violence against women happens behind closed doors, and that the majority of the perpetrators are male; our current or former male partners, men known to us in some way or men unknown to us. We also know women in indoors prostitution do not magically escape this same male violence behind these same ‘closed doors’. We know Male Violence Against Women (MVAW) is highly under-reported, referred to by those working with domestic violence, as a silent epidemic or hidden crime.
* Two weeks ago when 55 year old Ainur Ismagul was murdered by her husband, The Adelaide Advertiser, also interviewed the neighbours instead of community experts in MVAW. They chose to report to their readers that Margaret, who had lived on the street for ten years, thought they were a “quiet and friendly” couple, who enjoyed the community, parties and the social scene. Margaret also said “the couple did not seem like they would fight and she had never heard any altercations coming from the house. They seemed to be a nice, normal couple”.
They also reported that another neighbour, Fidias, thought they were a “very good, very quiet” couple who kept to themselves, and were “pretty quiet, pretty peaceful, just regular people.”
* At the beginning of February, when 39 year old Adelle Collins was allegedly stabbed to death by her ex-partner, whom she already had an Apprehended Violence Order against, and was in the process of tightening the restrictions on, The Courier Mail reported that “Police will allege the pair had a tumultuous relationship that turned sour late last year when Mr Storie took his fight with Ms Collins online”.
* And this recent example from New York, where The West Australian reported that, a retired police officer’s colleagues described this man murdering his two teenage daughters before killing himself, as an “unfathomable tragedy”, with no contact numbers for Domestic violence services made available.
Reclaim The Night Perth have since commented that “male-centred reporting on male murderers treats the killings as mysterious, seeks no commentary from DV experts, and instead of including helplines for abused women and children at the end, it treats suicidality as the main problem, by including a helpline for people feeling suicidal. This is the common narrative around the world.”
There is no excuse. Guides on the media reporting of Male Violence Against Women have been put forth by women’s rights organisations, and are easily accessible, yet media outlets continually fail to report responsibly.
- Call on community experts for comment
- Contextualise the story with statistics
“For instance, this Australian report says that ‘Four out of five [intimate partner homicides] involve a man killing his female partner…. Typically, women are killed in the context of a history of domestic violence’ (p.3). There simply is no reason to assume that domestic murders are mysterious.’
- Consider the broader social context:
- Domestic violence has a significant gendered dimension
“Acknowledge that domestic violence is not just a one-off incident… take care to use the active rather than passive voice when describing family murders… It was not a mysterious tragedy that befell murdered women – men, whose names are usually known, killed them.
“And because these acts are not ‘unfathomable’ or occasional, but part of an all too pervasive pattern of men abusing women, media reporting needs to include contact information for help and crisis services… for those who have experienced domestic or other sexual violence, as relevant…” READ MORE
- using the #mysteryismisogyny hashtag on twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and other social media, when you come across a news report that contradicts the responsible reporting guidelines.
- tweet and tumble/ FB etc, referring to this note from Reclaim the Night Perth on better reporting practices, using the #mysteryismisogyny hashtag.
The #mysteryismisogyny hashtag campaign is also supported by:
Lily Munroe @ REAL for Women
Belle Heywood @ Truly Loving Women
Paula Orbea @ Questions For Us
Please see REAL for women – Words Matter for separate reports on improving media coverage of both sexual violence and domestic violence.
For a more in-depth look at problems in discussing domestic violence, see Jennie Ruby on Male-Pattern Violence.
For a running count of men murdering women in Australia, see Man Murders Woman 2015: Women murdered and missing by known and suspected male violence Australia 2015
Do you need help or want to report male violence? please contact:
- 1800 Respect 1800 737 732, 24 hour sexual assault and domestic violence support, or
- Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120, 7:30am to midnight daily, or
If you are feeling unsafe right NOW, call 000