A Hell of a Nice Murderer: Double Standards in Domestic Violence Coverage


Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Mothers Justice- Initiative Project.


Double Standards in Domestic Violence Reporting

Filed under: Activism, Bad Dads, Children and Domestic Violence, Corrupt bastards, Desperate men, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Fathers who kill exspouses boyfriends,Fathers who murder their children, Husbands who murder wives, Murdered Mothers — justice4mothers @ 10:06 am

One of our readers alerted me to this article…considering the amount of “outrage” that we received from male commenter's to our post: Guys that Murder: “Gee, He Was Such a Nice Guy”.  This is from FAIR..Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting:

Extra! July/August 1994

A Hell of a Nice Murderer:
Double Standards in Domestic Violence Coverage
By Kim Deterline

Tired of reporting fraught with double standards and a blame-the-victim mentality, a coalition of women’s rights advocates in San Francisco decided to study daily press coverage of violence against women. Barbara Johnson, an independent media critic who frequently works with FAIR, conducted an eight-month study of the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner’s coverage of domestic violence cases that resulted in death.

The survey documented that “many myths about domestic violence are perpetrated in news reports” and that most reporting focuses only on the most sensational details.

One disturbing pattern uncovered was that white male perpetrators were frequently described in positive terms. For instance, a man who shot and killed his ex-wife and then hurled his daughter off the Golden Gate Bridge was referred to as “a sweetheart,” a “loving father,” and “a hell of a nice guy.” A man who shot and killed both his children was called “a loving father.”

Johnson wrote that many statements about the perpetrators “had an overly sympathetic quality and implied an element of victimization of the murderers, either by circumstances or frequently by the adult female,” such as one killer’s mother describing her son as “a victim of divorce.” A source said of another assailant, “To him [marriage] was a sacrosanct institution and to violate it was the end of his world.”

The descriptions were largely determined by the reporters’ choice of quotes, with the assailant and his family used prominently as sources. Both papers used police as their most frequent source–the Examiner used police sources five times more than any other source. Domestic violence experts were quoted in only one quarter of the cases studied.

The over-reliance on police sources led to an abundance of quotes that trivialized domestic violence as less serious or dangerous than other violence. The Examiner quoted a police officer saying that “most families just need a referee.” A cop in the Chronicle referred to police being “called to the home to settle domestic spats.”

The study found that the male perpetrator’s sexual jealousy was often presented as explaining or excusing violent action. For instance, an Examinersubheadline read: “Police Say Jealousy Led Man to Take His Children Hostage, Kill Them, Then Commit Suicide.” “Antioch Cops Trace Rage to Seeing Wife, Boyfriend,” a Chronicle headline stated.

The survey found a racial double standard. When the perpetrator was a person of color, violence was presented as expected and typical. When the perpetrator was white, the violence was presented as unexpected, out of character or inexplicable, as when the Chronicle included the quote, “Things like this don’t happen in Fremont.”

When men of color were the perpetrators, their descriptions were overwhelmingly in negative terms. The words “domestic violence” virtually never appeared in coverage of the cases involving European-American couples, but was used repeatedly in coverage of non-white couples.

Amazing…this research from 1994, and the media still doesn’t get it!  To read the rest of the story, please visit the website here.

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