Every year the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign provides a good opportunity to reflect on the progress and setbacks we’ve seen in the global effort to end violence against women and girls. This year, WITNESS has been paying close attention to the challenges journalists and survivors face when reporting on cases of sexual assault.
In an earlier post about reporting on sexual violence, Frank Smyth of the Committee to Protect Journalists writes that, “Covering sexual assault, including rape, can bring swift and unpredictable repercussions, leaving many journalists and others torn over how to navigate the risks.”
This has been evident in the unnerving confusion surrounding reports of a brutal sexual assault in Tahrir Square; in the non-stop media coverage of a video showing a U.S. football player violently punching his then-fiance in an elevator; and in the death threats against a Pakistani journalist who reported on the sexual assault of a young woman. These stories, among many others, are somber reminders that we have a long way to go in terms of protecting the safety and dignity of survivors and journalists reporting on sexual violence.
Fortunately, there are many groups setting positive examples of how to safely and ethically navigate these risks. For instance, the Women Under Siege Project was careful to evaluate security threats, obtain informed consent and develop ethical interview questions when collecting stories from sexual assault survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Likewise, a student advocacy group, the September Sisters, provided a platform for survivors to anonymously share their stories in a video advocating for policy changes around sexual assault cases at the University of Kansas.
The thoughtful and responsible work of these groups was a welcome change after the disheartening media coverage we’ve seen throughout the year. WITNESS was also excited to see that their work exemplified many of the best practices highlighted in our Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
In light of this continued need for resources, WITNESS is dedicating this year’s 16 Days campaign to providing tips that can help activists and journalists create even more positive examples of safe and ethical reporting on sexual assault. Over the next 16 days we will be releasing a tip a day from our guide and video series on Interviewing Survivors of Sexual Violence. We’ll be posting the tips on our website and sharing them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Do you have other empowering or inspiring examples of stories from or about survivors of sexual violence? Share your stories and find our tips on the 16 Days webpage.
Feature Image: Participants practice filming at a 2014 gender-based violence training organized by WITNESS and MADRE.