Written by BWV Reporter Bryony Ball

When are the media going to start recognising cases of domestic violence? Even when all the signs are right there jumping off the page they still don’t say the words.

When I read articles about actress Sian Blake’s murder in the news today[1] I was frustrated once again to see how the media has failed to highlight that this was a case of domestic violence. Like so many other articles I read about similar cases Sian Blake’s murder was not identified as domestic violence. When over 2 women a week are killed every week in England and Wales alone by a partner or former partner[2] this needs to be a priority.

One of the main questions people still always ask when a woman is in a domestic violent relationship is ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ It is no surprise to me that so many people fail to understand the complexities and dangers of what it means to leave a domestically abusive or violent relationship when these cases that end in murder are so often misrepresented. This story is be the prime example of how dangerous it actually is for a woman to leave her abusive partner but because it has not been presented in this way many will not make the important link.

Sian Blake made a hugely courageous decision to leave her partner just before she was murdered and this takes so much strength. Sadly this wasn’t recognised or mentioned by any of the media platforms instead most news reports chose to focus on what the perpetrators’ defense barrister said that ‘Mr Simpson-Kent is not a man prone to violence. He is a man of effective good character, with a caution for an irrelevant matter.’ [3]

So many articles like this not only fail to identify and actually use the words domestic violence but also use unhelpful language that not only minimises the bravery of the victim’s survival but often leans towards victim blaming. Most of the articles I read spoke about Sian’s ’unhealthy’ relationship ‘with Simpson Kent’ rather than using the words ‘domestic violence’ and ‘perpetrator’.

Until we start telling these stories in the right way and showing people the evidence and reality of domestic violence, the stigmas, shame and assumptions will never go away and women will remain in danger. It is only when we have honest and unbiased reports on the dangers of leaving an abusive partner and start labeling it as domestic violence that people will begin to understand the impact of this horrific crime.

1 in 3 women globally will experience violence at the hands of a male partner in their lifetime[4] we need to ask; when will this change?

Whenever celebrities are affected by domestic violence the media spins stories focusing on disbelief and blame, refusing to accept that women are victims and survivors of these experiences, even when evidence of domestic violence so heavily contradicts this.

We need to urgently start changing the language we use and the way we frame these stories if we want to see attitudes really change and these important issues that affect so many women, to be understood.

Sian Blake’s murder was domestic violence and not calling it that not only undermines her efforts and strength as a survivor and pushes the real issues of violence against women, once again into the shadows.

 

[1] http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/04/family-of-murdered-eastenders-actress-sian-blake-have-nightmares-about-her-death-6171158/

http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/05/partner-who-killed-eastenders-actress-and-two-sons-given-whole-life-sentence-6173270/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37552258

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/oct/04/sian-blake-killed-leave-partner-arthur-simpson-kent-eastenders

[2] Office of National Statistics, 2015

[3] http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/04/family-of-murdered-eastenders-actress-sian-blake-have-nightmares-about-her-death-6171158/

[4] State of the World’s Fathers Report, MenCare, 2015