A couple of months ago Lance Hart gunned down his wife and daughter. A couple of days ago Alan Hawe stabbed his wife and children to death.
Families brutally murdered. Women killed by their husbands, children destroyed by their dads.
However, according to the press these men are almost angelic. The reporting of the Hart case seemingly painted Lance as the victim. With the latest case (Hawe) we see a similar style of reporting. In both cases the media treats the women as if they are almost invisible. Even in death the women are being silenced by patriarchy.
They were women with hopes and dreams. They have names. In the first case we have Claire Hart, a mother, who according to the Daily Mail was partly guilty for her own death. In an article The Daily Mail stated that
“an act of revenge may be understandable”
This was because she apparently expressed her desire to end their marriage. The Daily Mail then goes onto say that
“it is often a twisted act of love that causes men to carry out such acts.”
The word love should never be used when referring to domestic violence. Extreme hatred or anger would be closer to the mark. The clue is in the label – domestic violence. Love is never an excuse for violence. By using the word love the media is legitimising domestic violence. It is excusing the actions of these violent men. In the same report we read many superlatives describing what a fantastic man Lance was. There was no flattering analysis of Claire’s character, and therefore, we can infer that Lance Hart is the important one; Lance is the one who will be missed. You could be forgiven for thinking that Lance was the victim, Lance was merely consumed by love and passion, and therefore he can’t be held fully accountable for his actions. But we aren’t dealing with a toddler here, and we haven’t wandered into an episode of ‘Supernanny’. We are dealing with an adult in a murder case. A grown man who would have known the difference between right and wrong. A man who should have been in control of his actions. Lance was the one who decided to pull the trigger that day.
A couple of days ago Alan Hawe killed his wife and children. Again, the woman was seemingly erased from a lot of the reporting. Killed by her husband: wiped-out by the media. Clodagh was her name and like her husband she too was a teacher. We are told what a fantastic man Alan was, but we are told very little about Clodagh. We learnt how Alan was a ‘valuable’ member of the community, ‘committed’ and ‘normal’. All very lovely, harmless descriptions of Alan. He almost sounds saint like. However, we aren’t reading a news report about the good deeds of the local vicar, we are reading about a murderer.
This kind of reporting really worries me. I wonder what it says about our society. I wonder how it would have been reported if it had been the wives that had committed the murders. I suspect that the majority of the media would have painted the women as being unnatural and their crimes as truly heinous. I doubt that we would have read any flattering analysis of the womens’ characters. How do I know this? Easy, we live in a patriarchal society. A society in which the media still considers men to be the superior gender.
A media that still turns a blind eye to violence against women.
Domestic violence against women is a very real problem.
- 2012 – 126 women killed through male violence in the UK
- 2013 – 143 women killed through male violence in the UK
- 2014 – 150 women killed through male violence in the UK
- 2015 – 127 women killed through male violence in the UK
In 2015 one women was killed at the hands of a man every 2.9 days. These women all had lives. Lives that were cruelly snatched from them by men. Women from all walks of life, young and old. The reporting in the media would have us believe that the cases of Hart and Hawe are isolated incidents. They are far from isolated. The above statistics paint a very grim picture. We have to challenge how the media reports domestic violence, we have to challenge this disturbing narrative in which the men aren’t held accountable.
We need to look at ourselves too: we need to question how we are bringing up our children. What about those fairy-tales we read our children? Stories where the women wait obediently to be rescued by the men. Is this passing on a damaging message? As a society we are inherently sexist. We need to look at how we raise our girls, dressing them in pink and calling them princess. Are we teaching them to stand by their man, no matter what? Are we raising girls to believe that their only role in society is to look pretty and to act subservient? We will never end violence against women when we are enforcing gender stereotypes, giving girls prams and boys guns. We live in a culture of misogyny and this is only encouraged by our media. The media is pervasive and powerful, and it is woven into our everyday lives. It impacts on everything we do. More importantly, it impacts on our children and their future. Hoping for change isn’t good enough: we need to make change.
We need to create a narrative that is equal: a narrative where both genders can be heard. Only then will we be able to tackle domestic violence.
What is your opinion on how the media reports domestic violence cases?