Following a series of articles in the Metro which gloss over domestic violence, Anat Toffell, Advocacy Worker for Solace wrote to the paper to challenge their editorial stance. Below is her letter:
I am writing to complain about the coverage of domestic violence news stories in today’s (4 September 2012) London Metro.
Reading the paper this morning, I saw that you had covered three stories of domestic homicides without at any point in any of the articles using the terms “domestic abuse” / “domestic violence” / “domestic homicide”.
By failing to name the behaviours you are reporting on, you are failing not only to provide a balanced analysis of the situations, but also failing hundreds of thousands of women and children who are at risk from domestic abuse and potentially from homicide themselves. We know that an average of 2 women are murdered in domestic homicides every week in England and Wales, yet your coverage of such events does nothing to raise awareness of this disturbing statistic.
Furthermore, I would also like to add that not only does your coverage do nothing to aid the plight of domestic abuse victims, but at times you actually collude with the perpetrators of these horrific crimes in the way in which you write about them.
I draw your attention to the language you use in the article entitled “Husband admits killing cheating wife despite winning a retrial”. You describe a man who bludgeoned a woman about the head with a wooden block, then strangled her with a rope as “heartbroken”, whilst the woman who lost her life to this man is described as a “cheating wife”.
The moral discourse you are applying to this tragic and preventable death is shocking. Similarly, in the article “Graham Anderson may have killed two sons out of fear, say neighbours” we get a barrage of comments about what a lovely man this was, and a wonderful father. Whilst I understand that you are quoting what his neighbours have said to the newspapers, the article does nothing to question this view nor does it question the fact that he chose to murder his children. The article would have benefited from investigation into and accurate reporting of the actual circumstances of the relationship between the parents and the children.
In both these stories there is no context given concerning the experience of the wife or mother who, typically in these cases would be depressed, frightened, at risk of harm and an unheard voice. It is extremely rare that acts of violence in domestic situations are isolated.
I would ask that you encourage the journalists writing for the Metro to spend some time doing some research and increasing their knowledge about domestic and sexual violence. You have a responsibility to communicate information in a responsible and accurate manner, not to write sensational stories with one-sided, ill informed discourses that are damaging and unhelpful and collude with severe acts of violence.
Solace Women’s Aid”