REPORTING ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT

Few journalistic challenges carry a greater weight of responsibility than interviewing survivors of sexual violence that occur in conflict. When rape is used in war, it has a devastating impact on individuals and their communities.

Responsible journalism can bring attention and insight to crimes that people have difficulty finding adequate words for. Careless reporting, however, can make things worse by adding to distress and exposing survivors to further danger. These guidelines are written by journalists and filmmakers who regularly work on CRSV (conflict-related sexual violence) issues. They emerge from a recognition that as a collective enterprise journalism needs to do more to define and share best practice. The goal is to achieve more accurate and insightful reporting, while reducing the risk of further harm to those brave enough to tell their stories.

The guidelines come in the form of eight key principles:

THREE FOUNDATIONAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE STARTING:
#1.
Three foundational questions

AM I SUFFICIENTLY PREPARED FOR THIS?

Talking to the media about sexual violence in a conflict zone is high risk for any survivor. These guidelines will give you a better idea of what is at stake.
#2.
Three foundational questions

Should we be interviewing this person, in this time, and in this place?

Assessing the safety of the source is the responsibility of journalists at all levels – the reporter on the ground, the editor in the newsroom, and colleagues chasing the same story.
#3.
Three foundational questions

Does my interviewee fully understand what they are signing up for?

It is not enough for somebody to say yes to having their words used or their picture taken. Consent is not meaningful unless it is fully informed.
THREE ESSENTIAL PRACTICES FOR SAFER INTERVIEWING:
#4.
Three essential practises for safer interviewing

Allow survivors to speak in their own way and in their own time

During sexual violence, people are treated by perpetrators as objects – not as individuals who have any control over what happens to them. Can you reverse that dynamic and give interviewees a say in how they will tell their story?
#5.
Three essential practises for safer interviewing

Understand trauma’s continuing impact on memory and feelings of safety

Some basic knowledge about trauma responses can help you navigate challenging interview situations and avoid consequential reporting errors.
Three essential practises for safer interviewing

Understand how your own emotional wellbeing is part of this too

#6.
Exposure to brutality can exert an emotional toll on media professionals. Self-care is a duty that you owe to yourself – and to your sources.
TELLING THE STORY:
#7.
Telling the story

Remember: Sexual violence is never the only dimension to the story

Too narrow a focus on just the brutality of events can hurt your sources and the journalism. Be attentive to the fuller context.
#8.
Telling the story

The images don’t fade: Be careful with visual choices

Once images are out there, they can’t be reeled back in. Universal access to the internet can put people in many kinds of danger.