The media has a role to play in preventing violence against women and holding perpetrators of men’s violence against women accountable.
Sports media can reinforce the attitudes and beliefs that drive violence against women, or it can challenge these attitudes and beliefs.
Read more about understanding the issue of violence against women here.
Tips for improving sports reporting on violence against women
The following tips are for sports journalists wanting to improve their reporting on men’s violence against women, and the attitudes and beliefs that reinforce that violence.
1. Stop and reflect
Stop and reflect – do you have an understanding of how violence in the sport can be gendered, what drives violence against women and how it connects to your reporting and every sport in our community? Watch this short video about changing the story in sport to find out more.
2. Name the violence
Women in sport experience harassment, abuse and violence that is gendered in nature – that is, they experience it because they are a woman. Naming it in your reporting demonstrates you understand the serious impact this has on women’s lives.
If legally allowed to, name the violence you are covering, for example: ‘violence against women and girls’, ‘family violence’, ‘sexual harassment’, ‘psychological violence’, ‘image-based abuse’ (not revenge porn), stalking, ‘technology-facilitated stalking’, ‘institutional abuse’, ‘child abuse’, ‘rape’ and ‘murder’.
3. Use active language
Use active language, for example, ‘coach assaults gymnast’ instead of ‘gymnast assaulted’. When we minimise the role of the perpetrator in sport reporting on violence against women, it reinforces ideas of male entitlement and disrespect toward women.
Where safe and/or legal, name the relationship between victim and perpetrator to remind your audience that most violence against women is perpetrated by somebody they know.
4. Use respectful language
Avoid sensationalism. Use respectful language and headlines to articulate the seriousness of sexism and violence against women.
Seek to uphold the dignity and humanity of women, their families, and those in your audience who will identify with the subject of your story.
Plan how to maintain respect once the story is live, including social media commentary.
5. What is the data and evidence?
When covering violence against women in a sport context, use statistics to demonstrate the how common violence is and to contextualise the story.
Are there statistics on the drivers of violence that are relevant to the sports or story you are covering? If these data sources are missing, mention this – it is important information for your readers.
6. Choose dignity
At the heart of your story there is a person. Don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes about gender, race, disability, sexuality or age.
Have you sought out images that tell the story from the point of view that is respectful of women’s unique contribution to their sport? Avoid images that overtly sexualise, sensationalise, disrespect, or disempower women athletes.
7. Quote the experts
There are experts who know more than you do on this topic. Women are a diverse group. Develop good relationships with experts in women’s sport, pride in sport, racism in sport, all abilities in sport and gender equality in sport.
Experts in women’s sport include: sports academics specialising in women’s sport, experts in trans women in sport, women in sport leadership like women CEOs of national sporting organisations, experts in violence against women in sport, and gender equality experts in the sports industry like the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
8. Include support options
When you cover issues of gender equality and violence against women in a sporting context, always include support details. The following tag below contains the national referral lines that should be used:
If you or someone you know is in danger call 000. For support for sexual assault, domestic or family violence, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or www.1800respect.org.au.
For counselling, advice and support for men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
9. Prepare for backlash
Unfortunately, when writing about violence against women in sport, there can be an aggressive and at times violent response from some parts of community, this is known as resistance and backlash.
Address common forms of resistance and backlash (that consistently appear in the comments section) in the article itself. For example: it’s not about ‘all men’ being the problem, but it is about dominant masculine stereotypes being a part of the problem.
10. Take care of each other
Women sports journalists experience higher rates of abuse, including online abuse, than male sports journalists.
When you or a colleague are experiencing gendered abuse, name it for what it is: violence against women, sexual harassment, trolling, stalking.
Take action using this guide about how to respond to harassment on social media.
Take online threats seriously, because over 20 per cent of online abuse against women journalists translates into physical attacks.