Victim-survivors of violence have experienced trauma, and this can make it very difficult to talk about. These tips will help you work with victim-survivors respectfully and in a way that generates the best possible story for you and gives victim-survivors an opportunity for their story to be shared.
Talk to the experts
Get in touch with local support organisations to make sure your interviewee will have support. Give services plenty of notice if you want their help in finding a victim-survivor to interview.
Help them 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 victim-survivor time to meet everyone. Where survivors do not communicate in English, ensure an interpreter is present, and ensure the interpreter is a woman.
Explain the interview process and outline the areas you want to discuss in advance.
Suggest that the interviewee bring along a friend, relative or support worker.
Make arrangements 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 OK.
It is paramount to maintain the privacy of women’s addresses and the location of women’s refuges. Be mindful of this when using pictures.
Ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions that allow victim-survivors to share their stories.
Some examples of good questions to ask include:
- What do you think is important for people to know?
- How has this experience impacted you?
- What services/resources/people helped you in your recovery?
- What were the barriers to you coming forward?
- What suggestions do you have to make it safer for victim-survivors to come forward? (source)
Avoid questions about the victim-survivor’s behaviour that imply they somehow provoked the incident.
Avoid questions which for example, make reference to a women’s faith, immigration status and/or ethnicity. Often 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 them 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 her check over the quotes you are planning to use to make sure she is happy with how she has expressed herself.
If the survivor wishes to remain anonymous, let her check how you have described her so that she is confident that she won’t be identified.
Be clear how the interview will be used, where and when. If it will also be used 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 make sure the victim-survivor is updated.
In-house lawyers for media organisations can get anxious when there has been no 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 violence against women can be difficult and can impact on the health and wellbeing of journalists. You can get emotional support and help from helplines.