The media has a role to play

COMMENT: Victorians must speak out to tackle culture of violence against women and children

THIS week the family of Fiona Warzywoda will say goodbye to a much-loved mother, sister, daughter and friend.

A young woman whose life was valued by so many, but taken so brutally by one man.

Fiona’s very public killing, along with that of little Luke Batty and sisters Savannah and Indiana, drew significant attention.

The media screamed about the heinous and horrific acts, and rightly so. Fortunately, some journalists have taken the time to explore the issue behind the senseless and tragic deaths – the issue of men’s violence against women - and reported responsibly. Others have tried to understand a complex issue, but many have chosen to simply report the deaths as part of the daily news cycle. But as soon as that cycle moved, so too did our attention.

It is true that any sensible and accurate reporting about men’s violence against women raises awareness of a very serious issue and helps towards better understanding, but reporting incidents without then trying to help a community understand, and change, is irresponsible. Few journalists take the time to consider that with every public report of men’s violence against women, the danger for many women increases and anxiety for those thinking ‘it could be’ or ‘could have been me’ is heightened.

What we need from the media is a stronger, louder and accurate voice that refuses to stop talking about the issue until all levels of government take notice.

We need to keep telling the stories of women; keep raising awareness of what violence looks like. It takes many forms and occurs in all demographics.  It affects every workplace, every element of society.

We need to stop asking women why they don’t leave and putting the responsibility and blame on them, and instead turn our attention to the man's choice to use violence. Why is he violent? Controlling? Why does he assume power?

We need to stop assuming women will be safe when they leave. We know that up to 18 months after a woman leaves is when she and her children are in danger – as a community, we need to talk about how we take responsibility to ensure safety of women and children.

We need to keep writing stories about the services available for women and children. We need to support them to get their messages out - and support them in their funding applications.

And we need to keep writing about the fact men’s violence against women is about power and control. It is about patriarchy and the attitudes of some men towards women. It is a whole-of-community issue.

Let’s not only tell the horrific stories when they happen. Let’s remember the little people in Fiona’s life. The beautiful children left without a loving mother. Let’s think of Rosie Batty, and the mother and family of Savannah and Indiana. 

The media has a responsibility to play in breaking down myths and keeping this issue in the forefront of people’s minds.

We in the media have a powerful tool to keep the focus on the issue of men’s violence against women. Let’s respect that and be a voice for change. A voice for those who can no longer say what needs to be said. And for those still living in silence, and in fear. It's not always about headlines - it's about people.

We need to keep telling the stories of women; keep raising awareness of what violence looks like

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