Changing the Conversation: Media Training for IPV Professionals

Changing the culture that supports domestic violence means that this campaign must address the holders of the culture. The media is arguably the most powerful perpetuator of myths and the most powerful tool for change.

Media reporting on intimate partner violence at a local level generally happens in two instances: after a local intimate partner homicide, and following a national case of intimate partner violence or homicide. Both present opportunities for increasing public understanding and awareness of intimate partner violence, but in most cases those opportunities are missed.

When a local intimate partner homicide is reported, it is frequently accompanied by interviews with the neighbors (which usually go something like “they were a normal couple, he was a really nice guy who provided for his family”), the occasional pop psychologist explanation of mentally ill people who ‘snap’, and explanations for the perpetrator’s behavior that generally include a fair amount of victim blaming. Rarely are the domestic violence experts contacted. And even more rarely is the crime placed in the context of dangerous relationships based on power and control.

Domestic violence organizations across the country have experts who can be called on to help provide information to the public and the media following an intimate partner homicide. Many domestic violence professionals, however, avoid media contact, citing poor coverage of stories, and frequent misquoting or misplaced context of statements during interviews. Frequently, the most effective spokespersons for this campaign are the survivors of intimate partner violence. By empowering survivors to own and share their stories, organizations can more effectively change public perceptions of IPV and aid in the healing and growth of their clients.

The key to changing this coverage is to empower local domestic violence organizations to help write the local narrative about intimate partner violence. This engagement campaign includes training and tools for local domestic violence organizations to reach out to their local media when IPV cases are reported.

Tools include:

  • Developing relationships with local media outlets
  • Using press releases and letters to the editor to influence the conversation
  • Effective use of social media