Your call, on speaking to the media about CPV

Back in 2013, I blogged about whether it was helpful to speak to the media, and how we could work within professional ethical guidelines with this. I find myself revisiting this theme now, partly because I am increasingly being contacted by investigative journalists interested in learning more about child to parent violence, and partly because I do believe the general tone and atmosphere around this is changing. With coverage in the mainstream media, and on flagship programmes it is in everyone’s interest to present as full a picture as possible, and to ensure accuracy of coverage whenever we are able to influence direction.

In recent weeks I have been asked by a number of journalists working for BBC Radio for background information and, of course, for families willing to speak out about their own experiences. On radio, at least, there is great willingness for people to remain anonymous if they wish, in order to protect confidentiality. Generally the desire is to make the story more ‘personal’ and to make it more real. Recent examples of positive coverage include a number of episodes of the Victoria Derbyshire Show, File on 4, and Woman’s Hour. Often stories are then taken up by local radio or TV news programmes and broadcast further.

My own response to this is always to offer what ever information I can give about CPV itself, but to make it clear that I am not able to pass on names unless approached by families themselves to do so. This is a decision I have made in order to best respect autonomy and privacy. What I have done though is to put out a ‘shout’ on twitter asking for individuals to make themselves known if they are interested.

If parents would like to speak to journalists, I suggest they reflect on a number of things first:

  • This must be your own decision. Do not let others pressure you in to it if you are not certain.
  • Keep expectations low! The journalists want to hear your story but it may not ‘fit’ with the story they already have planned; or it may be that nothing progresses very far after all.
  • Don’t just assume that anything you say is “off the record”. Journalists are incredibly busy, with tight deadlines, and little time to spend getting to know you first. That first 10 minutes that felt like a casual chat? They were already taking notes, so make sure you give approval for anything they might use particularly if there are very specific details that could identify your family.
  • Think about support both during and after discussions and around the time the show goes out. If you are already in some sort of therapy, make sure your therapist is on board. You might feel great enthusiasm now, but this might change to a sense of guilt later.
  • Think about how you will field questions and comments from friends, family, school etc. after the show.
  • If journalists would like to speak with children there are additional things to consider around their own agency and understanding, confidentiality now and in perpetuity, impact on relationships etc etc.

It is then up to families to make contact themselves, and I can pass on details of the journalist concerned.

Having said all of that, I think there are amazing opportunities at the moment, as the interest in examining this issue is so high. With individuals across many different genres of programme asking questions, we have the ability to present as full a picture as we ever have had. If you would like to be involved in sharing your story, and helping to raise awareness, or if you know someone else who would, you are welcome to contact me and I will pass you the relevant details. You can email me via the contact page of this website, or you can direct message me on twitter. You may be reading this in late 2018, or at a future date, but don’t feel the moment has been lost. Whenever you are reading this, I am sure I will still be happy to take names and to pass them on as the opportunity arises.


Filed under Discussion

4 responses to “Your call, on speaking to the media about CPV

  1. That’s all good advice, Helen.
    I’ve found that media are generally not interested unless there is a personal story. What’s more, there has been a shift over the past 20 years towards expectations of more openness about people airing their dirty laundry in public. In the past press and TV were usually quite happy to hide people’s identities and blur faces or use silhouettes, but they are less happy to do this nowadays. On radio it is easier to disguise identities. One problem is that the majority of decent, sensible parents would not go public while a young person is being violent or abusive – though they (and sometimes the young person) may be willing to go public if the abuse has stopped (not good enough for the more sensationalist media) . This does mean that occasionally parents who are less than responsible, possibly with multiple problems, are the ones who go public, giving a distorted impression and possibly reinforcing parent-blaming myths.
    I think parents, and workers, have to very carefully consider whether publicity is going to adversely affect the young person who is being violent. For this reason I’ve had to turn down quite a few media requests over the years.
    However, raising the public’s awareness of this issue remains very important.

    • Thanks Eddie for your comments. I am feeling confident about the BBC coverage here at the moment, so much more positive about this than I might have been in the past. I imagine it will vary from country to country, and year to year. Best wishes, Helen

    • Kate

      myself and my son went public on the Victoria Derbyshire programme I consider myself decent and didn’t think of it as airing dirty laundry. it was a way of highlighting what outside stress can do to a child and how little support we have had. it was my way of saying “this is not good enough”

      My son has ASD/PDA and ADHD. I have also run your group as a facilitator. PDA is a different ball game!

      • Thanks Kate for your comment, and the contribution you have made personally to raise awareness and understanding of this issue. Shows such as Victoria Derbyshire seem to be very interested in our story and to be very sensitive in the way it is presented. I wish you and your family safety and peace.

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