Do not call it a crime of passion

Gender-based violence is a widespread phenomenon in society. On Thursday 6 April, a panel consisting of four journalists experienced with covering the theme, provided the audience with some more information about the narratives that contemporary media use for this topic. Stefania Prandi, an Italian photojournalist, Claudia Torrisi from Chayn Italy and Cristiana Bedei and Salma Haidrani, both UK freelance journalists, made some points on the media’s potential in reshaping traditional perceptions of the violence and making way for a new narrative. The talk was moderated by Sofia Lotto Persio, a journalist at the International Business Times UK.

Persio started off saying that violence against women is happening everywhere and that activism alone will not be able to enforce the change that is needed. The media also play a huge role by selecting a certain narrative to bring forward stories on the topic. Persio indicated that in the current narrative, women are often victimized, their humanity is often undermined and the perpetrator is shown as a mad person.

Torrisi added that gender stereotypes are what lead to gender-based violence. According to Bedei, these stereotypes are most often passed on by tabloids. In the media, violence is also often portrayed as being caused by passion or jealousy. The focus is often on the rapist and his motives. The woman is sometimes described as being too nice and too attractive, in a way that she provoked the violence. On femicide in specific, Torrisi stated that the media often portray these crimes as isolated cases and that no media outlet ever speaks about the structural problems and causes behind this phenomenon.

Prandi shared some insights about Italian photo journalism. When reporting on violence against women, media often show pictures of women with black eyes or women who are crying, in which they are portrayed as a powerless victim. The woman is also often shown as attractive, for example in short skirts, so that the idea could be conveyed that she herself is partially guilty of the crime.


The members of the panel bring forward a few suggestions on how the current narrative of violence against women can be improved upon. There are already new media that try to push through a more progressive agenda in which they tackle issues that women face. The panel also emphasizes that the journalist has to find a balance in telling enough about the crime to get the message across but at the same time, not sensationalizing the news. There are also some organisations, such as the National Union of Journalists, that offer guidelines on how to report on gender-based violence. The panel also indicated that it would be a good idea to raise awareness of women’s rights through the media. Information such as useful organisations and contacts or positive stories of women who have escaped the violence, could already be a great improvement.

By Charlotte Teunis