Victim-survivors of violence have experienced trauma, and this can make it very difficult to talk about their experiences. These tips will help you work with victim- survivors respectfully so that you get the best possible story and give the victim-survivor an opportunity for their story to be shared.
Talk to the experts
Help the interviewee feel comfortable: listen, get to know them, and build a rapport.
If other people will be involved in the interview, such as a film crew, allow the interviewee time to meet everyone.
If the interviewee does not communicate in English, ensure a professional interpreter is present, and that they’re a woman.
Before the interview, explain the process and outline the areas you want to discuss. Suggest that the interviewee brings along a friend, relative, or support worker.
Plan for the support worker to be present or have numbers for support agencies on hand.
Ask the victim-survivor if they would like to remain anonymous.
Let the woman know in advance if you want to record the interview and ask if this is okay.
It is paramount to maintain the privacy of victim-survivor’s addresses and the location of women’s refuges. Be mindful of this when using pictures.
Ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions that allow the interviewee to share their story.
Some examples of good questions to ask include:
- What do you think is important for people to know?
- How has this experience affected you?
- What services/resources/people helped you in your recovery?
- What made it difficult for you to come forward?
- What suggestions do you have to make it safer for victim-survivors to come forward?
Avoid questions about the victim-survivor’s behaviour that imply they somehow provoked the abuse.
Avoid questions which refer to a women’s faith, immigration status, and/or ethnicity unless directly relevant. Including this type of information about victims-survivors and perpetrators feeds into societal stereotypes about minority communities.
Be prepared to stop and start, or simply just stop
Let the interviewee share the amount of information that they’re comfortable with in their own time. Let them take a break if they need it.
Using the story
Let the interviewee check over the quotes you are planning to use to make sure they’re happy with how they’ve expressed themselves
If the interviewee wishes to remain anonymous, let them check how you have described them so that they are confident that they won’t be identified.
Be clear how the interview will be used, where and when. If the interview will appear online and on social media, make sure this is understood and consented to.
Be clear that news priorities can overtake the planned publication or broadcast dates and times, and keep the interviewee updated.
If you have them, consult in-house lawyers first. In-house lawyers for media organisations may not wish you to report on cases when there has not been a conviction. It can be very disappointing for a victim-survivor to go through the emotions of giving an interview for it not to be used because lawyers weren’t consulted first
Looking after yourself
Reporting on VAWG can be difficult and can affect your health and wellbeing. You can find more information about vicarious trauma and strategies to cope in this presentation by Women’s Aid Federation of England.
Tip: If you are an editor, check the Dart Centre’s Staff Care Tips for Managers and Editors of News Personnel Exposed to Traumatic Events for information on how to support your staff.