Media representations of violence against women and their children: State of knowledge paper

Tuesday, 24th November 2015

This paper provides an overview of the best available contemporary evidence on the way news and information media portray violence against women.

In the paper studies are grouped into three broad areas of inquiry: 1) media representation (how content and discourse are used in news items on violence against women); 2) audience reception (how audiences interpret news on violence against women and how risk is perceived and managed); and 3) news production (what practices are used in reporting on violence against women and their children).

The paper finds that:

  • To date, most research attention has focused on how the media represents violence against women and their children. Collectively these studies illustrate that the media frequently mirrors society’s confusion and ambivalence about violence against women.
  • The audience reception literature shows an association between representations of violence against women in the news and audience attitudes and perceptions of blame and responsibility. There is also emerging evidence of an association between televised news reports of intimate partner violence and observed rates in the community.
  • The few studies available on news production confirm that the pressures of newsworthiness and profitability present formidable challenges to the task of responsible and sensitive reporting of violence against women.
  • Despite an expanding body of research, gaps in our knowledge remain. For example, there is a need to better align media representation studies with the emerging work on audience reception and news production, and for a better understanding of online news production, reporting and audience contribution.

Download Landscapes Issue Fifteen PDF.pdf (5.2 MB)

This work is part of the ANROWS Landscapes series. ANROWS Landscapes (State of knowledge papers) are medium length papers that scope current knowledge on an issue related to violence against women and their children. Papers will draw on empirical research, including research produced under ANROWS’s research program, and/or practice knowledge.

This paper addresses work covered in the ANROWS/Our Watch research project 2.2 “Media representations of violence against women and their children”, part of the ANROWS Research Program 2014-16 (Part 1).

The research is jointly funded by Our Watch as part of its National Media Engagement Project. The National Media Engagement (NME) Project is engaging media to increase quality reporting of violence against women and their children and building awareness of the impacts of gender stereotyping and inequality.

Violence against women and their children generates daily media coverage in Australia. What is missing is an understanding of the links between sexism, gender inequality, community attitudes and this violence. In fact some reporting perpetuates attitudes and myths that give rise to the violence in the first place. The NME Project has been designed to address these issues.