Media Monitoring: Reporting Violence Against Women during a global pandemic
This April, our Project Support Intern Saffron, is blogging about her media monitoring project during the COVID-19 Lockdown. She’s been investigating Scottish news sites for stories about violence against women to get analyse their coverage. Read the second blog here.
On the first day of UK lockdown, Tuesday 24 March, I began a seven-day Media Monitoring project looking at the coverage of violence against women in the Scottish press.
In previous years, we have used physical copies of newspapers however, due to the lockdown, it was not possible to go to the shops for newspapers every day. So, we decided to continue the project ‘as normal’, using online newspapers instead of physical ones.
I searched the websites of 10 national newspapers using 15 search terms to find articles related to violence against women.
The search terms were violence against women, sexual assault, rape, attack, abuse, coercion, #MeToo, harassment, gender, FGM, forced marriage, domestic abuse, domestic violence, porn, prostitution.
I hoped these terms would flag up as much content referring to VAW as possible. However, some stories about violence against women might have been missed by these searches, perhaps because the piece did not identify itself as involving VAW.
The other impact of the pandemic, aside from being unable to physical newspapers, was the domination of coverage by the virus. Across tabloid and broadsheet alike, it was difficult to find anything unrelated to COVID-19.
Indeed, there were significantly fewer articles about violence against women than in previous years. Over 7 days and 10 outlets, there were 37 stories, compared to 2018 over 5 days and 9 outlets, there were 75 stories.
This is the first of four blogs that will cover my findings from these stories. This first blog is an overview of what I’ve found. The next 3, with more in-depth analysis, will be published in the coming weeks.
Gender of the Author
57% of the articles this year were written by women - much higher than last year's 33%.
30% were written by men, 8% by men and women together, and 5% unknown author.
The Sun contained the most articles about VAW overall (13), as well as the most articles written by women (10). In fact, the general trend saw tabloids having both the most articles, and the most female-written articles; across 26 tabloid articles, 15 were written by women, whilst of 11 broadsheet articles, only 3 were written by women.
Types of violence covered
Of the 10 papers, 6 acknowledged the links between the Coronavirus lockdown and an increase in violence against women in 9 separate articles.
These were mainly in tabloid papers, and most stories were focusing on domestic abuse directly in reference to the Women’s Aid campaign on domestic abuse during isolation.
Two stories mentioned the potential impacts of increases in porn traffic on women.
Over 50% of stories were about physical violence. A further 32% were about multiple types of violence – including emotional, sexual, and psychological. This was particularly spoken about in reference to domestic abuse whilst in isolation.
This was similar to 2019’s study where 85% of the articles found were about physical violence whilst 15% were about other forms of violence.
Reporting on less well-known types of violence is important as it can help people realise they are suffering from violence and can help others understand their situation better. Find out more here.
19% of stories included helplines.
This increase is likely due to the online format of the articles as there is less pressure on word count and space, and the focus of many of the stories being Women’s Aid campaign.
Media coverage of violence against women reaches women who have experienced or are experiencing the same violence. Providing helplines can encourage women to seek help. It can save lives. Find out more here.
Ending Violence Against Women
There was little mention across the board about how to prevent the violence they were reporting.
One Telegraph article urged neighbors to keep an eye out for signs of domestic abuse during lockdown – this could be called an attempt at secondary prevention but is not a massively effective strategy.
One Times article suggested that domestic abuse victims who were being abuse by their partners through child access claims, could protect themselves using custody laws. However, this is a very difficult process that is not always successful in protecting the children or women from an abusive ex-partner.
Violence against women and girls is caused by gender inequality. To prevent this violence, we have to tackle attitudes and change structures that sustain inequality and violence. Find out more about prevention here.
Read the second blog in this series here
Read our Media Guidelines on Violence Against Women for more information on responsible and accurate reporting.
Learn more about gender and the media through a free online course delivered by the University of Strathclyde
Luke and Ryan Hart share their story of domestic abuse on Twitter and focuses on changing media representations of domestic abuse
999 – Emergency 101 – Non-Emergency
Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline
0800 027 1234 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free and confidential service for anyone of any gender who has experienced domestic abuse or forced marriage.
firstname.lastname@example.org (response within 2 days by email)
Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline
08088 01 03 02 - between 6pm and midnight every night or by email email@example.com
Full details of access to support for people who are deaf or hard of hearing can be found at https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/help-deaf-access-to-support/
We can arrange for language interpreters.
Free and confidential support and information for anyone, women and men, affected by sexual violence, no matter when or how it happened.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) helpline (run by NSPCC)
0800 028 3550 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free and confidential help for anyone who is worried a child is at risk of, or has had, FGM.
0800 11 11 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free and confidential service to help anyone under 19 in the UK with any issue they’re going through.
Email and online chat available https://www.childline.org.uk
0808 802 4040 - 9am-5pm - Monday-Friday
Free and confidential service for anyone who is concerned about their own behaviour towards their partner (male, female, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships).
Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre
0808 801 0301 - 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday
Help for women in English, Urdu, Arabic, Punjabi, Bangli and Swahili and, when required, using online interpreting.
Shakti Women’s Aid
0131 475 2399 - 9.30am-4pm - Monday to Friday
Help for black and minority ethnic (BME) women, children and young people who are experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic abuse.
Scottish Women's Rights Centre
Phone: 08088 010 789
Help for self-identifying women aged 16 and over affected by violence and abuse by providing free legal information and advice through helpline, legal surgeries and ongoing casework.
Monday 2 - 5 pm
Tuesday6 - 8 pm
Wednesday11 am - 2 pm
Friday10 am - 1 pm
Tuesday 11 am - 2 pm
Thursday 5 - 8 pm
National Stalking Helpline
Phone: 0808 802 0300
This is a confidential service if you're impacted by stalking. They'll provide impartial advice and information to men and women, including:
how to identify if you're being stalked
the law on stalking
how to protect yourself
talking to the police
Victim Support Scotland
Phone: 0800 160 1985
Gives free and confidential support to men and women, and practical help for victims and witnesses of crime.