Best Practice Tips
10 steps to reporting violence against women responsibly and accurately
1. Respect women
- Report violence against women and girls (VAWG) in a way that upholds the victim-survivor's right to dignity and does not compromise their safety or anonymity.
- Don’t sensationalise or trivialise violence with the use of clickbait headlines, overly dramatic language, excessive details about the abuse, or personal details such as their transgender identity or their involvement in pornography or selling sex.
2. Include diverse voices
- Represent diverse stories by including the voices of women not seen, heard, or read about in news and current affairs. For example, older women, minority ethnic women, disabled women, etc.
3. Name the cause: gender inequality
- Be clear about the cause of violence against women: gender inequality. VAWG stems from men having access to power in our society, over and above women. This power imbalance leads to sexist beliefs, misogyny, and ultimately VAWG.
- Don’t excuse men’s violence by suggesting that the perpetrator’s actions were due to alcohol, mental health, financial pressures, or stress. These issues may exacerbate violence, but they are never the cause of it. Learn more about what to avoid on page 21 of our Media Guidelines.
- Don’t report on what a woman was wearing, what they had to drink, if they had an affair, or give any other ‘explanation’ for the violence. This is irrelevant. Perpetrators are responsible for their actions, not the victim-survivor.
- When covering any form of violence – including harmful traditional practices, like forced marriage or female genital mutilation – be clear this violence is rooted in misogyny. Don’t stigmatise any ethnic group or religion. To learn more about harmful traditional practices see page 11 of our Media Guidelines.
4. Name the crime
- Use words that accurately describe the crime:
violence against women, domestic abuse, rape, murder, child sexual abuse, emotional abuse, coercive control;
instead of sex, sex case, domestic dispute, sex scandal, sex affair etc.
For more examples see our language guide on page 13 of media guidelines.
5. Consider how you present the perpetrator
- Avoid quoting the perpetrator. It can normalise their attitudes and behaviour, and traumatise victim-survivors.
- Use active voice when describing perpetrator’s actions, i.e. ‘The perpetrator forced the victim-survivor to…’.
- Name the current or previous relationship between the survivor and perpetrator. Most violence is perpetrated by someone the victim-survivor knows.
- Don’t focus on the impact of the crime on the perpetrator, instead focus on the impact of the crime on the victim-survivor.
6. Know when to use 'victim' or 'survivor'
- Use ˈvictimˈ when discussing the crime or criminal justice system, or when a woman describes herself as one, or an attack has resulted in death.
- Use ˈsurvivorˈ when referring to the woman in all other instances.
- You can also use victim-survivor if you are not sure, or if you are speaking in general terms.
- Don’t name victims of violence against women in ongoing cases, even when it is legal to do so. Use a woman’s name only if you have her explicit permission.
7. Place voices of experts and survivors at the centre of the story
- Put the victim-survivor at the centre of the story by focusing on how the violence has affected them. Don’t give the perpetrator’s excuses a platform.
- Ask expert women’s organisations for comment, and source case studies through them.
8. Use statistics to show the prevalence of VAWG
- Individual stories of VAWG are not one-off events. Use statistics to show that VAWG happens frequently, and that individual incidents are part of a much larger problem.
9. Select images thoughtfully
- Don’t use images that contribute to harmful stereotypes or objectify women. We have diverse and ethical free-to-use stock images available. We offer a free selection of ethical and diverse stock images to illustrate violence against women and girls. Learn more about appropriate images on page 25 of our media guidelines.
10. Always include helplines: it can save lives
- Your story might affect women who have experienced or are experiencing the same violence that you are reporting on.
Providing sources of support can encourage women to seek help. We've created a list of helplines for you to copy and paste.