By SARA MEGER
There is something concerning about the media coverage of Charles Saatchi’s violence against his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. It is the willingness of the news media to reproduce images of Lawson’s abuse.
The incident has not just served as a graphic reminder of the pervasiveness of men’s violence against women; nor just to note how quick society can be to blame the victim in cases of family violence or turn a blind eye to such “private” matters.
This type of sensationalist coverage can have a dangerous, if unintended, effect.
When the news media acts voyeuristically in instances of domestic violence (for example, by reproducing images of abuse), it can serve to normalise such violence.
Studies have long documented that the viewing of violence can lead to desensitisation and reduced tendency to intervene or feel sympathy for the victim.
A media study commissioned by VicHealth and undertaken by Jenny Morgan and Violeta Politoff of the University of Melbourne emphasised the role of the media in shaping how people understand men’s violence against women.
The repetition of myths and construction of social norms regarding men’s violence in the media has been found to shape not only public attitudes towards victims and perpetrators of violence, but also has affected rates of conviction and policy-making.
The reproduction of graphic images of domestic violence may be read by men who act violently towards women as an implicit approval of their actions. As one blogger noted, the problem with “rape jokes” is that: