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Reporting Femicide-Suicide in the News: The Current Utilization of Suicide Reporting Guidelines and Recommendations for the Future

Abstract

Public health officials have developed and disseminated recommendations for the responsible reporting of suicide in an effort to dispel myths about suicide-completers and minimize contagion effects. However, recommendations as to the reporting of homicide-suicide events have not been a priority in these initiatives. The current study assesses the degree to which newspaper coverage of the most commonly occurring type of homicide-suicide event, femicide-suicide, adhere to existing suicide reporting recommendations by examining newspaper coverage (n = 143) of a population of femicide-suicide cases (n = 83) from North Carolina for the years 2002–2009. The current study demonstrates the importance of developing and disseminating reporting guidelines to assist in dispelling myths about the victims and perpetrators of lethal intimate partner violence.

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Notes

  1. The data provided by the NCCADV are not the only source of data available from which femicide-suicide events can be identified and used to investigate journalist reporting. We chose to use the NCCADV’s data for several reasons. These data are publically available and indicate which events were followed by perpetrator suicide. In comparison to other sources, such as UCR data, that rely on official records (and voluntary reporting to the FBI), the NCCADV provides a more complete list of femicide-suicide events from all counties in the state. An additional source which provides detailed information on homicide events is the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System (NC-VDRS; a source noted by the NCCADV website). The authors chose to use the NCCADV data, as opposed to NC-VDRS data, in part because of accessibility, but also as a means of acknowledging the efforts of the coalition to both collect data and promote awareness of issues related to domestic violence. Furthermore, the NCCADV data provide two additional years of domestic homicide events (2002–2003) compared to the NC-VDRS.

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Correspondence to Tara N. Richards.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Femicide-Suicide Coding Sheet (from Suicide Reporting Guidelines)

  1. 1.

    The femicide-suicide (FS) is portrayed as unexplainable OR the result of a single problem (ex. loss of a job, depression, etc.)? FSUE

  2. 2.

    What terminology is used to describe the perpetrator and victim?

    • Male perp/female victim MPFV

    • Ambiguous on who is the victim/perp AVP

  3. 3.

    Does the FS article mitigate the blame for the femicide-suicide by focusing on the suicide completer’s positive characteristics?

    • Mitigates blame by focusing on positive perp characteristics

    • (good father, such a good man, great guy, etc.) MB

    • Blaming language towards perp BP

    • Blaming language towards victim BV

    • Neutral towards perp/vic NP

  4. 4.

    FS articles should avoid sensationalized titles or headlines

    • Sensationalized title? ST

    • Neutral/factual title? NT

  5. 5.

    FS articles should avoid the inclusion of pictures of the grieving family, crime scene, memorials, or funeral.

    • Victim pic VP

    • Perp pic PP

    • Other pic (list type in excel: crime scene, memorial, DV march, etc.) OP

  6. 6.

    FS articles should use the story to inform readers about the causes, warning signs, and trends/rates of domestic violence and to dispel myths.

    • Includes DV trends, statistics, etc. DVT

  7. 7.

    FS articles should include quotes from a DV expert concerning causes, intervention, prevention, and treatment options

    • Includes DV expert quote DVQ

    • Includes Suicide expert quote SQ

  8. 8.

    FS articles should include local/national domestic violence resources where readers can find information, prevention/intervention, and treatment options

    • Includes DV resources such as phone numbers, shelter locations, etc. DVR

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Richards, T.N., Gillespie, L.K. & Givens, E.M. Reporting Femicide-Suicide in the News: The Current Utilization of Suicide Reporting Guidelines and Recommendations for the Future. J Fam Viol 29, 453–463 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-014-9590-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-014-9590-9

Keywords

  • Femicide
  • Suicide
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Media representation