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Vicky Allan wins award for ‘Best article – Comment and Feature’

Over the next week we will be publishing information about all of our Write to End Violence Against Women award winners. You can find the full list here or read Annie McLaughlin’s article for the Sunday Herald here.

Vicky Allan ‘s winning feature for the Sunday Herald highlighted cases of rape and violence against women in India which have made headlines around the world, but warned of a failure by some to link these to wider issues of gender inequality. You can read the full piece here.

She wrote: “These tales of horror and violence…are the tip of an iceberg, a distraction from the bigger story about gender in India, which isn’t one of stranger rape. Rather, as I found when last month I travelled with the Edinburgh-based charity EMMS International to New Delhi, and Bihar, the country’s poorest state, it is of what happens in home and family. It is what happens when a whole gender is devalued. It is a story that begins in the womb.”

The judges praised Vicky’s “well-researched and engaging journalism which lays out the daily reality of women & girls in India”  commenting that “this impressive piece shines a light not only on the killing of baby girls, but also the myriad of barriers facing girls and women in India throughout their lives.”

Speaking after receiving her award Allan said: “It’s been a great night particularly because there are loads of women here whose writing I’ve read and I’ve been really interested to meet, because they’re all writing about things that I’m passionate about myself.

One thing that isn’t really clear unless you really think about it is the role gender inequality has [in violence against women]. That’s what I was hoping to get across in the piece, that although I was writing about what was happening in India, it was the same issues, the same structures, the same things that were having an impact on women there as here, even though it might seem more extreme.”

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Photo credit to Vaida V Nairn

 

The Ferret Journalists win ‘Gender Equality Award: Women And Migration’

Over the next week we will be publishing information about all of our Write to End Violence Against Women award winners. You can find the full list here or read Annie McLaughlin’s article for the Sunday Herald here.

Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, Lyra McKee, and Karin Goodwin investigated the experience of female asylum seekers forced to remain with abusive partners because of their immigration status. Read their full piece on The Ferret here

They wrote: “Asylum seeking women have been told by legal advisors that they should consider staying with abusive partners rather than risk losing their right to remain the UK, according to evidence uncovered.

Lawyers, psychologists and campaigners claim that Home Office guidelines, stating that women have to prove they have been abused, mean that women are often forced to stay in dangerous situations because they are scared of being sent home.

Refuges are not an option, because asylum seekers – along with those who have legal right to remain but no recourse to public funds, such as women joining refugee husbands through family reunion – are unable to access refuge accommodation because of their immigration status.”

Nina Murray, Women’s Policy Development Officer for Scottish Refugee Council said of the winning piece, “It’s such a compelling exposé of the many ways that women survivors with insecure immigration status fall through safety gaps in the UK response to violence against women.

The piece covers complex ground, exploring the impact of different immigration rules and the many barriers that women face accessing justice and support across the UK. It does so with clarity and accuracy, drawing on a wide range of experts for context.

The powerful case studies from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland go to the heart of women’s experiences with dignity and authenticity, challenging stereotypes and giving women who are so often silenced, the opportunity to have their voices heard. We particularly liked the powerful call to action contained in the piece and the use of illustrations. The beautifully drawn images not only protect survivors’ identities but bring to life the appalling situation that these women find themselves in, in the UK. It’s an outstanding piece of investigative journalism.”

Fiona Davidson, Director at The Ferret, said: “It feels absolutely wonderful for the Ferret to win this award, I’m immensely proud.

What the Ferret does is extremely important; it’s all about public interest journalism and speaking up for the powerless and holding those in power to account.  Hopefully what [we] published on the plight of women and migration will help improve their situation in the future.”

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Invisible Women: The Wooden Spoon Award

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This speech was given by Kirsty Strickland for the presentation of the Wooden Spoon Award.

The Write to End Violence Awards is an important event, where we celebrate the journalists and writers who report violence against women in a responsible way. Tonight, we have recognised those who write about these issues with due care and consideration, acknowledging that the media can have a positive impact on how society views and responds to the scale of violence against women.

We have with us tonight writers who give us much to celebrate. We know, however, that this standard often isn’t replicated throughout the broader media and press.

Which brings us to the point in the evening where we focus on areas of press coverage where there is still much room for improvement.

The wooden spoon award.

Last year, the wooden spoon was given to sexist headlines. This year, Zero Tolerance have opted again to award the wooden spoon to a theme, rather than an individual article. This recognises the shortcomings of representation as a whole, rather than singling out one individual journalist.

This year, the theme we are focusing on is that of the so called ‘invisible woman’ –  namely, the media’s tendency to neglect to mention the woman in cases of a family killing and instead focus the majority of coverage on the perpetrator. This coverage is often centred on speculation about his imagined motivation:

Was he under stress at work?

Was she leaving him?

Did he ‘snap’?

In these cases a man – a husband, partner, or ex-partner – kills his family and himself, and reports all but erase the murdered woman.

We’ve seen many stark examples of this coverage over the course of the year, but tonight I will take you through just a couple of them.

Back in July, 57-year-old Lance Hart killed his wife Claire and 19-year-old daughter Charlotte in a leisure centre car park in Spalding. After lying in wait, he shot them both in the stomach before turning the gun on himself.

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Not long after the murder, it was reported that Claire had recently separated from Lance who she had described to friends as ‘controlling’.  But rather than situate this fact in the broader context of the heightened risk we know some women are at when they decide to leave a partner, some newspapers wrote as if Claire separating from Lance somehow made his violence more understandable.

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Indeed, one psychologist in an article for the Daily Mail said just that. Writing about Claire’s murder he said:

“But while killing their partner as an act of revenge may be understandable, for a man to kill his children (who are innocent bystanders in a marital breakdown) is a very different matter.”

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In one newspaper a source was quoted who said “Claire had left him. I don’t know what the issues were in their marriage, but I can’t understand why he had to kill his daughter as well.”

There were numerous quotes praising Lance Hart’s character, at a level which was striking in its contrast to the little being written about Claire.  One described him as “the nicest guy you could ever meet”; “he would do anything for anyone”; “he helped me with the DIY in my house”.

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There were plenty seeking to justify his actions. The murder was described by one as a ‘twisted act of love’. Had reporters spoken to experts such as Women’s Aid, they would have been able to include a quote which explained that these acts are never rooted in love.

Much in the same way that street harassment isn’t a compliment. Rape isn’t about sexual attraction. Controlling behaviour isn’t infatuation. Murder is never an ‘act of love’, twisted or otherwise.

While the publications in question can’t be blamed for the words of contributors, their decision to include statements which justify and minimize the murder of women is one for which they must bear responsibility.

The erasure of the murdered woman and the focus on her murderer and his apparent motivations were present in another sad case this year, which generated widespread attention and controversy.

In County Cavan in Ireland, Alan Hawe killed his wife Clodagh, his three sons Liam, Niall, and Ryan, and then himself.

Clodagh Hawe was the 87th Irish woman to be killed by a current of former partner since 1966. Since 2004, there have been at least 24 similar cases of familial murder-suicide in Ireland. From the coverage however, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a rare occurrence.

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Our theme for the wooden spoon this year is the ‘invisible woman’ and the reporting of the death of Clodagh sadly embodies this.

In this case, the framing of the narrative was that Alan Hawe, as a school vice-principal, was an upstanding and valuable member of the community. It is striking just how little Clodagh is mentioned throughout the coverage and the extent to which Alan Hawe was initially eulogised by some newspapers. We learned about his work, his childhood, the sports he excelled at, the things he did for neighbours, and even what a good father he was. No such mention was made of Clodagh – how she will be missed or the value her life had.

She too was a teacher, no doubt had many talents, contributed to society – yet was brutally murdered alongside her children and all but erased from the reporting that followed.

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While photos were splashed across newspapers of the children smiling alongside the father who would later stab them to death, Clodagh’s photo was often absent entirely. Clodagh’s mother – who found a note that Alan Hawe had left – was described as Alan Hawe’s mother-in-law. Not Clodagh’s mother. Not the children’s grandmother. The murderer’s mother in law.

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The fact that Alan Hawe was a respected school vice-principal brought to the surface many harmful misconceptions we still hear about violence against women – namely, that violent men are either ‘monsters’ or otherwise good men whose actions can be justified if you look hard enough. The excuses afforded to them range from mental health problems, the fact that their wife was leaving them, stress, alcohol, or even something as trivial as a football score.

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Good reporting should put into context the broader scale of violence against women and explain that it is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. It should seek to highlight that normal men – men who maintain friendships, have good careers, and are well-liked by their neighbours – can also be violent to their partners.

The erasure of murdered women in media coverage of their deaths perpetuates the culture that says that women’s lives are dispensable and unimportant.

Throughout the coverage of the deaths of Claire and Clodagh, we read a lot about their killers. Their likes and dislikes, their talents, personalities, childhoods, and praise for their character. In short, we learned what made them human. Contrast that with the murdered women. We know of them only in relation to the men that killed them, and the gruesome nature of their deaths.

While the men’s motivations, mental health, and hardships were widely discussed, this humanity is noticeably absent in the coverage of the women.

The stark erasure of Clodagh in the reporting of her death was eventually noticed and commented on, sparking the hashtag #HerNameWasClodagh . However, if we are going to make real progress, then responsible coverage shouldn’t be in reaction to awful coverage – it should be the expected standard.

Journalism doesn’t exist in a void – it shapes society as well as reacting to it.

When we lose a woman to male violence, it is important to name it as that. To name the problem.

To name – but never eulogise – the perpetrator.

To name the woman.

This year’s wooden spoon goes to the media outlets who allowed murdered women to become almost invisible in death. In future, let us hope that journalists will recognise their collective responsibility to always make sure these women are seen.

 

 

 

Claire Heuchan wins award for ‘Best Blog’

Over the next week we will be publishing information about all of our Write to End Violence Against Women award winners. You can find the full list here or read Annie McLaughlin’s article for the Sunday Herald here.

Claire Heuchan won the award for Best Blog for her piece ‘Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma’ – read it on her blog, Sister Outrider.

Discussing the racist and misogynist abuse she has received for her work, Claire Heuchan wrote in her blog:

“The abuse I receive online has reached new heights. For the first time (and probably not the last) I feel physically unsafe because of it. Along with the persistent misogyny, the overt racism, the steady drip drip drip of “shut up nigger”, there is something new: the threat of violence.

A white man told me that he wanted to hit me with his car. He wanted to hit me with his car and reverse over my body to make sure that I was dead. The scenario was so specific, the regard for my humanity so little, that it felt more real somehow than any of the other abuse I have received. It shocked me in a way that nothing on Twitter ever had before. I could hear my bones crack.”

Claire’s piece was described by the panel as “an emotive, original and necessary piece of writing”.  The judges said that “the author’s flair for language sparkles from the page; resulting in an impactful blog which still resonates with you long after you’ve finished reading.”

Claire said after her win: “It’s incredibly moving to have won this award. I started my blog about a year and a half ago and I did that because nobody was really asking any of the questions I had about race and feminism and how the two sets of politics fit together and I was waiting and waiting for someone else to say these things. One day it dawned on me that no one was and I thought I should start.”

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Lucy Miller wins award for ‘Best article – Student and Young Person’

Over the next week we will be publishing information about all of our Write to End Violence Against Women award winners. You can find the full list here or read Annie McLaughlin’s article for the Sunday Herald here.

Lucy Miller wrote about last year’s Reclaim the night in Glasgow in her award winning article for the ‘Student and Young Person’ category. Read her full piece on the Glasgow Guardian here.

In her coverage of last year’s Reclaim the Night march at the University of Glasgow, Lucy wrote:

“What was humbling to see were little girls marching alongside their mothers in order to raise awareness for this extremely worthwhile cause. But these little girls should not need to grow up in a society that sees approximately three cases of rape being reported daily in Scotland, and that’s only those which are reported. Too many women, young girls and men feel shame and humiliation in going forward to the police with their story. According to ThinkScotland, only ten percent of rape victims will report the assault to the authorities, and of those reported, only one in thirty rapists will be prosecuted.”

The judges described Lucy’s article as “uplifting” and said that it “shows women taking control of a difficult issue.”

Lucy said after accepting the award: “I think that writing is important in all aspects of impacting culture, as well as violence against women it can be used to eradicate [other inequalities] such as racism and homophobia. Writing can reach everyone; reading is something that all people can engage in.”

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