Media Myths and Male Violence Against Women

Media coverage of male violence against women could actually be exacerbating the problem, and could be partially to blame for disastrously low reporting rates. Statistics measuring non-reporting are obviously difficult to gather with accuracy, but an ABS national survey indicates that 81.1% of women who experienced sexual assault did not report it to the police. So how could media be contributing to this problem?

 

Media coverage of male violence against women perpetuates two myths. The first is the monster myth: the fiction that men who commit violence against women are not ‘normal men’, but rather slavering madmen who are dislocated from society, and hence unintelligible to it. This myth stops society (particularly males) short of necessary self-examination, and belies the fact that most violence against women is committed by normal men, most of whom are know to the victim. For an example of this monster myth one needs to look no further than the recent media treatment of Vincent Stanford (charged for the murder of Stephanie Scott), who has been painted as a violent, reclusive Neo-Nazi.

 

Whereas the monster myth is perpetuated by what the media does say, the second myth exists by default of what the media doesn’t say. By only reporting on extreme or sensational deaths, national media passes over the main bulk of male violence against women; namely domestic violence. Media helps us make sense of our own lives; therefore it is overwhelmingly likely that women diminish their own experiences of domestic violence in relation to this extreme view. Indeed, BOCSAR states that 11.4% of women did not report domestic violence to the police because they perceived their abuse as not serious enough to warrant a report.

 

Clearly, national media plays a part in perpetuating the insidious culture of masculinity and silence that allows male violence against women to continue.

 

O’BRIEN SOLICITORS

Peter O’Brien

Principal Solicitor

Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law