IPSO: Dignity for Dead Women
Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Some of these deaths attract media attention, yet domestic violence deaths are too often reported in a way that compromises the dignity of the deceased woman and traumatises her surviving family. It's time to treat fatal domestic abuse like the public health problem it is.
IPSO is the largest press governing body in the UK, and it has strict reporting rules on suicide – because it's a public health problem. Domestic abuse deaths are no different. It's time for IPSO to change their editorial code to include a clause on responsibly reporting domestic violence deaths.
In 2018, Level Up developed Dignity for Dead Women guidelines for reporting domestic abuse deaths, which are based on the acronym AIDA:
- Accountability: Place responsibility solely on the killer, which means avoiding speculative “reasons” or “triggers”, or describing the murder as an uncharacteristic event. Domestic homicides are almost always underpinned by a longstanding sense of ownership, coercive control and possessive behaviours: they are not a random event.
- Images: Centre the victim, not the perpetrator, and do not place their images side by side.
- Dignity: Avoid sensationalising language, invasive or graphic details that compromise the dignity of the dead woman or her surviving family members.
- Accuracy: Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Abuse Helpline at the end of the article: 0808 2000 247.
These guidelines have been backed by IPSO, but it is evident that guidelines are not enough. Editors' Code change is needed to enforce reporting standards on this crucial public health issue.
Every bad article on domestic abuse is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths. Responsible reporting improves public understanding of domestic abuse, avoids causing harm to victims' families and helps women at risk access support.