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Educating Journalists on Intimate Partner Violence

By on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I spent several years on the Board of Directors for a local domestic violence prevention agency in Northern Virginia and worked with media for several years on the issue of intimate partner violence. While many of the reporters we worked with were great and wanted to share about our programs and how we were helping people re-start their lives after trauma – every now and then, one reporter would come along who would surprise me.

A major widely-read newspaper in the DC area refused to do a story about the agency unless they could publicly name, using first and last name, a survivor who had been through our programs. No amount of pleading, education about the nature of domestic violence, or practical reasoning could persuade the reporter and her editor to see otherwise.

The story stalled for months, with the reporter wanting to write something, yet the agency unable to locate a survivor who was in a place where she was comfortable about being named in a media story about domestic violence and not in a situation where doing so might jeopardize her safety. After several months, one brave survivor offered to do the interview.

The resulting story was quite good and informed thousands of people about our agency’s programs and the serious issues involved in domestic violence – but I’ve never forgotten the journalists and their intransience on the name issue. I have worked with other reporters who’ve understood these issues, even at the same newspaper, who were more willing to work to not identify a trauma survivor, than that particular duo.

Needless to say, I’m glad to see Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is offering a two-day workshop in New York next month to help journalists better understand how to cover intimate partner violence. Journalists, you can get more information about applying to attend on their website.  The workshop will:

  • Serve as a forum for improving journalists’ knowledge of critical issues such as the mental and physical health impacts of intimate partner violence; innovations in prevention and intervention; social, economic and legal implications, and responses by schools, public health institutions, and community and faith-based organizations;
  • Explore new research, reporting ideas and best practices with leading mental health, policy, and prevention experts;
  • Confront challenges — and identify opportunities — that exist for journalists pursuing these stories with limited resources;
  • Provide practical tools to enable journalists to successfully produce stories that examine the problem of intimate partner violence in diverse communities and serve to educate and encourage prevention.

Let’s all hope the workshop leads to better stories and broader understanding about the serious issue of intimate partner violence.

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