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Time to make clear the killer is at fault

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Level Up, petition, IPSO, new editor's code, domestic violence deaths, lurid headlines, It’s time for better reporting of domestic violence deaths.

Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.

Some of these deaths attract media attention, yet, due to a lack of guidance, domestic violence deaths are often reported in a way that compromises the dignity of the deceased woman and her surviving family.

Campaign group Level Up, says it’s time to put an end to bad reporting, which has lasting traumatic impacts on surviving family members.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is the largest press governing body in the UK; it’s time they introduced guidelines on reporting domestic violence deaths.

Level Up suggests:

1 – 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.

2 – Accuracy: Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Violence Helpline at the end of the article: 0808 2000 247.

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

4 – Equality: Avoid insensitive or trivialising language or images.

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

Every bad article on domestic violence is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths. Responsible reporting can improve public understanding of domestic violence, help victims and their families seek justice and help women at risk access support.

Janey Starling, campaign manager at Level Up, wrote in the Guardian earlier this week about the appalling salacious language used to report on the murder of Melanie Clark by her husband.

And she pointed out that in January 2019 IPSO will be renewing its editors’ code.

IPSO is the largest press regulatory body in the UK, and if the code it adopted helped journalists to report responsibly on suicide, it could also do the same for domestic violence deaths.

And, maybe, if the press started reporting on domestic violence deaths more accurately, we could stop more women dying.

Level Up has started a petition asking IPSO for dignity for dead women. Please sign and share it. Thank you.

For confidential support in the UK, call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit womansaid.co.uk.

If you or your family have lost a friend or family member through fatal domestic abuse, Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse, (AAFDA) offers specialist and expert support and advocacy.

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