It was the story we didn’t know how to tell. Day after day we’d ignore the callouts we heard over the police scanner. There were too many to count, anyway, and it wasn’t really anything for us to worry about. After all, violence against women was a private matter, no-one else’s business - not even a journalist’s.
But then there was Jill Meagher. Rosie Batty. Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay. Tragic events and strong leaders showed us that Australia’s shameful secret was actually a huge story. Domestic violence costs us more than 21 billion dollars a year, and is, shockingly, the leading cause of preventable death for women aged 15-44. At least one woman a week is murdered by her current or ex-partner. It’s a crime story, as well as a social, economic and political yarn. It’s big news, and telling it is a big job - and many Australian journalists are increasingly committed to tackling it.
What remains is to make sure we’re getting it right. Hearing the voices that need to be heard. Dispelling the myths that persist. Exploring why and how violence against women happens in the first place.
Of course, major challenges remain. Cases are regularly confidential, communities may be closed, privacy has to be protected. Editorial decisions might be out of our hands.
But despite the hurdles, we must strive to tell this story fairly, accurately, and in context. To ensure we’re not blaming victims, or excluding voices. To remember that an isolated 'domestic disturbance' is actually part of a global problem. We need to look at the social emergency that is violence against women in all its forms, and how we, the journalists covering it, could help to stop it.
That’s what this website is all about. We’ll be looking at who’s reporting what on this issue – at what’s good, and what’s not so good. We’ll explore the ethical dilemmas and impediments we face when covering these stories. We’ll try to provide useful resources, contacts and guidelines for covering this issue. We’ll field and direct questions from our colleagues and members of the public, and try and answer some of them. And we’ll work hard to fill some of the gaps that remain - to report on the issues we’re still not hearing about.
Now that we’re finally telling this story, let’s make sure we tell it like it really is.