Guidance for media, victims and survivors
The Media Guides for Reporting on Child Sexual Abuse Project
News media are one of the few ways the public have to understand the topic of child sexual abuse. When done well, reporting can inform public understanding, increase community awareness, educate and convey the views and experiences of those impacted by child sexual abuse. If not treated appropriately, news stories also have the power to reinforce stereotypes and cause further harm, stigma and trauma.
In June 2022, the National Office for Child Safety at the Attorney-General’s Department commissioned the University of Canberra’s News & Media Research Centre to develop evidence‑based media guides to encourage responsible reporting on child sexual abuse, and a companion guide for victims and survivors engaging with the media (the Guides). These evidence-based Guides have been developed in consultation with key stakeholders from media, child safety sectors and victims and survivors. They are underpinned by the principle that news media should approach the reporting of child sexual abuse with trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment and respect for diversity, and that victims and survivors should be educated, equipped and supported to liaise productively and safely with media.
The Guides have been developed through:
- Review of academic literature on the role of media in reporting on and shaping public understanding of child sexual abuse;
- Review of existing media guidelines and guides for people with lived experience on related topics such as mental health, violence against women and child abuse, noting there are currently no specific guidelines for media reporting on child sexual abuse in Australia;
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis of two years’ news media reporting from April 2020-March 2022 across print, broadcast and online media to identify key features and trends in media reporting; [Access report summary]
- Consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including people with lived experience, media professionals, and advocacy organisations. The team first sought formative feedback through a survey, workshops and interviews, which was synthesised with the review of academic literature, guidelines review and media analysis to develop the draft Guides. The team then conducted further consultation to refine the draft Guides to ensure they were informed by the voices and views of victims and survivors, advocates, and media professionals. Over 100 participants in 28 online and in-person workshops, small consultations and individual meetings contributed thoughtful, impassioned and practical feedback. [View summary]