Sexist violence and the commitment of the media, by Gemma Altell

A few days ago we commemorated November 25, the international day for eradication of violence against women. Every year we find multiple articles, reports, etc., on the issue in the media. This year has not been an exception. Unfortunately, it has coincided over time with some very serious cases of sexual violence or ongoing trials. The analysis of how these situations have been dealt with in the media together with the interesting round table promoted by the ‘conselleria’ de Feminismes i Igualtat about the approach to violence in the media has led me to some reflections that I would like to share.

I am a social psychologist specializing in sexist and gender violence and I regularly interact with journalistic contexts. I try every day to understand your keys, their needs and learn the best way to communicate the messages. These learnings allow me, on the one hand, to do self-criticism on how we approach the audience communicatively as professionals in sexist violence intervention, but at the same time it allows me make some suggestions to the journalistic world. On the one hand, I consider that we, professionals in the field, must improve in our effort to explain in a simple and didactic way some ideas that are often very complex and that have led us to many years of study, profession and life, looking at the world with our purple glasses. Words often very technical or ideological that, or they are not understood, or sometimes they generate rejection. It is important to find linguistic codes and shared life experiences that facilitate understanding and empathy with the people who see and / or read us.

On the other hand, when it comes to the media, I would say that often the sense of immediacy weighs too much. Addressing the issue of sexist violence in a journalistic manner does not require being the first, but rather being the medium that best explains it. You better mean focusing on what is socially relevant, be well advised by experts on the subject and empathize with the pain of the affected people; This means, above all, understanding what it can mean for women – in the present and in the future – to have their lives permanently exposed on the Internet.

In the thread of the round table on media that I commented at the beginning, I see how there is a clear will among the media to ‘do things right’, but tools missing. One of the key tools would be to put two ‘professional worlds’ in dialogue. The collaboration between journalists and experts in sexist violence. And I do not mean only to include in the journalistic pieces the expert voices that support the news – a practice that, fortunately, is already consolidated – but we must go a step further, establishing mechanisms of mutual advice on what is the best way to convey messages to readers, listeners, etc. (based on specific news and more general spaces for reflection). For example, advising us on when is a good time to talk with victims and / or relatives or, on the other hand, make some concessions in the conceptual orthodoxy in favor of connect with audience. Likewise, it would also be important to listen to women and other people who have suffered or suffer sexist violence, but not as direct testimonies that illustrate the news, but in order to understand the impacts of spreading the news about the violence in their lives.

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You have to become aware of the social responsability that we have all the social agents who, for one reason or another, have a loudspeaker that allows us to change imaginary, help to understand the structural nature of sexist violence and understand the situation that direct victims go through. When we speak of something as conceptual as structural violence, we must feel challenged. Get out of our corporate logic and open ourselves to stable collaboration. We are obliged to dialogue continuously, because it is from this dialogue and mutual learning from which shared communicative codes will emerge that will allow a qualitative leap.

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