Yet another headline writer trivialises violence against women

I’m very conscious of the way the media trivialises men’s violence against women. Often a false narrative is constructed to somehow give the impression that the abuser had some sort of excuse for their behaviour.

A story in today’s Metro, or more specifically its headline is a good example of terrible practice.

Let’s look at what the man in question actually did to his girlfriend:

Anwaar was open to fits of rage. In one incident she fell unconscious when he throttled her after smashing up her iPhone, slapping and kicking her.

He also attacked her in front of her sons and on two or three occasions slapped her around the back of the head.

Prosecutor Nicola Quinney said Anwaar had held a knife to Miss Doherty’s throat, asking her if she wanted him to kill her, and saying he wasn’t scared of a life sentence. During the attack, Miss Doherty’s son Ethan, three, was hiding under the bed.

So that’s a pretty serious series of violent incidents that fully deserved a decent jail term.

But what was the headline?

It hardly conveys the horror of the ordeals he put her though. “Man jailed for series of violent attacks on girlfriend” would give a better sense.

This sort of thing needs to be challenged as and when it arises. Perhaps the Metro might like to make sure that its staff have a copy of ZT Handle With Care Media Guide produced by Zero Tolerance which identifies best practice when writing and reporting on incidents of violence.

At the end of last year, I went to the Write to end violence against women awards at the Scottish Parliament. That event celebrated some examples of the best practice. You can read the shortlisted articles here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • David Faggiani 19th May '16 - 3:09pm

    Wow, that’s pretty bad. I guess the Metro’s only excuse would be that ‘Man jailed for being horrifically violent to woman” isn’t really a novel news story. Which is in itself, of course, hugely depressing.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '16 - 3:14pm

    I totally agree. The headline is a disgrace and any media outlets that repeatedly trivialize violence against women should be punished.

    The notion of total press freedom is illiberal. In my opinion.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th May '16 - 3:21pm

    A bit controversial there, Eddie. I’m not in favour of regulating the press’s content, although I am acutely aware that control of the media is in the hands of a very narrow group of powerful vested interests.

    Once Government starts to regulate content in the press beyond a sensible mechanism which ensures redress against defamation, you are on very dodgy ground indeed.

    Much of the press is beyond awful, but there’s not a lot we can do about it except point out when they get it wrong and try to change things so that they do it better.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '16 - 3:33pm

    Fair point Caron. I suppose it’s just the conclusion I’ve come to, but I agree we don’t want to run off in an Erdogan style anti-press freedom direction.

    Anyway, continue the criticism! 🙂

  • Put in a complaint to ipso

    13. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

    https://www.ipso.co.uk/IPSO/rulings/IPSOrulings-detail.html?id=367

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 19th May '16 - 4:57pm

    That is totally outrageous. A complaint to the press complaints authority is called for.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th May '16 - 5:40pm

    Antony, do they still have this nonsensical idea that you can only complain if you are directly affected by the story?

  • The Metro is owned by the Daily Mail Group – expat Rothermere lot. They are in IPSO. Here are their rules for complaint.

    Mail Group Complaints policy on their website.

    Important points to check before you submit your complaint

    Under IPSO rules complaints will normally only be accepted within four months of the date of publication of the article, or the journalistic conduct, in question. Outside that period, complaints can be considered up to 12 months after the first date of publication only if the article remains on our website, and it can be investigated given the passage of time.
    Please note that we cannot begin considering a complaint until we have received all supporting documentation you wish to submit, including correspondence with the journalist concerned.
    Normally complaints can only be considered if they are made by a person who has been personally and directly affected by an alleged breach of the Editors’ Code. If you are making a complaint on behalf of another individual you will need to supply an email or letter from that individual, giving you permission to act on their behalf.
    If you are taking legal action against one of our publications, you need to let us know, because under IPSO rules we may then be unable to consider your complaint.
    Complaints from representative groups affected by an alleged breach of the Code can only be considered where the alleged breach is significant and where there is a substantial public interest in it being considered.
    Third party complaints can only be considered where they seek to correct a significant inaccuracy of published information, in which case the position of the party most closely involved will be taken into account.
    Complaints may be rejected if there is no apparent breach of the Editors’ Code, or if they are without justification (such as an attempt to argue a point of opinion or lobby), vexatious or disproportionate.
    Complaints about headlines will normally only be considered in the context of the article as a whole to which they relate.
    Under IPSO rules we must attempt to resolve all complaints before they are considered by IPSO. If after 28 days your complaint has not been resolved you are then free to take it to IPSO. Visit the IPSO website to find out how to do that: http://www.ipso.co.uk

  • While I agree that the physical assaults were a terrible aspect of this case and ought to have been included in the headline, in a sense I think you’re ironically kind of doing what you accuse the headline writers of doing, by dismissing this man’s controlling behaviour as “trivial”. This sort of coercive and emotionally bullying behaviour is far fropm trivial and can wreck lives, which is why the government (rightly) has introduced a new criminal offence for it.

    To be fair to the press, Anwar is one of the first people to be convicted of this new offence, so it’s not really a surprise that the papers should be focussing on that aspect of the case. You haven’t even mentioned the controlling behaviour conviction in your article – but it’s really serious. Anwar has been sentenced to 28 months in jail, 12 months of which are for the controlling behaviour offence.

    One of the things I find disturbing about this is that nine violent assaults, including holding a knife to someone’s throat in front of their three-year old child, only warrants 16 months.

  • You were right to raise this issue, Caron, but it leads on to another issue which Lib Dems ought to champion and protect. The need to stop the decline and closures of women’s refuges.

    Changes to housing benefit’s “shared accommodation rate” are set to strip refuges of significant funding in 2017. In 2016 at least 46 women have been murdered in the UK. This number would be a lot higher if it wasn’t for specialised refuges.

    In addition, it is extremely disturbing is that over the last six years Government funding to local authorities has been cut by 40% – with, as a direct consequence that at least 32 women’s refuges have been closed. The last one to exist in Cumbria (in Carlisle) was closed last month. This at a time when reports suggest violence to women is increasing. I hope Tim is aware of what is happening in his home county and challenges it.

    This is not a fashionable subject – BUT – it ought to be a key issue for every Liberal Democrat Councillor wherever they are. The lives of women and children are at risk.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th May '16 - 10:42am

    Stuart: I welcome the new offence of coercive control, but the headline trivialised even that extent of it and didn’t reflect the horrific violence he inflicted on his partner. It was designed, I think to make the casual browser think that that the man had been hard done by in some way, being sent to jail for something trivial when in fact all aspects of what he did were awful.

  • Yellow Bird 20th May '16 - 2:17pm

    This is another account of the same case, which better integrates the controlling behaviour into a pattern of domestic abuse which also includes physical violence:
    https://uk.news.yahoo.com/violent-abuser-jailed-beating-girlfriend-103010442.html

    I am interested by the use of the new powers as to offences derived from coercive behaviour. I think headlines drawing attention to that being a criminal offence in itself are useful.

  • @Yellow Bird
    The Sun’s article had a headline referencing Kim Kardashian which would no doubt make many posters here livid :-

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/7161853/Controlling-boyfriend-jailed-after-forcing-his-partner-to-run-on-a-treadmill-every-day-while-showing-her-pictures-of-other-womens-bodies.html

    But the article itself is a good piece of journalism, really reinforcing the seriousness of the coercive behaviour charge, and giving victims advice on what they should do.

    I can understand the point many here are making but I think some of the criticisms are way over the top. If this had been purely an assault case, it’s very unlikely it would even have made the papers – not because it wasn’t serious, but because such cases are sadly all too common. The only reason this case was given such prominence was because of its exceptional nature as one of the first convictions under a completely new (and serious) offence. Caron’s article completely ignored this aspect of the case.

    While I agree the headlines are crass and should have been better written, on the other hand they will at least have had the effect of drawing readers in to reading the articles and thereby informing them about something very important that they probably would not have known otherwise i.e. that this kind of behaviour is now an offence punishable by prison. Sadly, this is the way the world is. If the headline had said “Man assaults woman”, far fewer people would have read the article.

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