Recently I did something that I typically don’t do at all. I gave an interview with a reporter. I know, hardly exciting or news worthy but let me tell you, that is something I don’t do very often (like, at all) and I take that opportunity very seriously.
For the most part, we don’t talk to the media much because we will never talk about calls we’ve been on or our clients or details of incidences. It’s part of our confidentiality agreement and we take that extremely seriously. One of the reasons why is that it can be very re-traumatizing for someone to hear their story was shared with others, no matter how innocently or ‘good intentions’ it was at the time. We also see the times that the media gets it wrong. When you were there when it happened, sometimes you see that the information shared publicly, for whatever reason, isn’t accurate.
Like all professions though, there are good media people and ones that are maybe less than honorable. It’s tough to know who is who. It has been my experience that most reporters are decent folks who do mean well. You have to understand though, they don’t get the same type of “victim / trauma” training that first responders do. They may or may not know how to talk to someone who has been victimized in a way that doesn’t add to their burden or stress (or guilt in some cases). They may not understand the nuances that go with violent relationships or things like sexual assault and that can result in their own judgments and opinions filtering into the tone of the article they write.
For many victims of crime, especially high-profile or ‘exciting’, ‘traumatic’ or ‘shocking’ events, the media comes calling. They want to know your side of the story, your version, your thoughts and sometimes what you plan on doing next. It is always your choice to speak to the media or not. Very aggressive or intrusive reporters can have a negative impact on your grieving however respectful, properly trained and empathetic reporters can help you feel like you’ve been heard. You don’t have to talk to them. If you choose to, there are some things you should keep in mind.
You may have control over what you tell a reporter, but you have no control over what they report and / or when they report it. Sometimes a word or sentence can have a different meaning or leave a different impression when taken out of context. Sometimes, information can surface months later when something exciting happens at trial.
A reporter can gather whatever information about you (as a victim) they want from others. Seems hardly fair but it happens all the time.
If whatever has happened is still under investigation, information you give to the media can hurt that process and sometimes cause difficulties for, or even damage a case. It’s always a good idea to check with whatever police service you are dealing with to find out what is free to be share with others and what isn’t.
The good things that can come from talking to the media include the ability to tell your side of the story and to provide awareness and information about a topic that maybe needs a little more ‘light’. Hopefully by telling your story you will feel validated and inspire others to do the same.
Some of the negative things include the lack of control that you have once the information is out there, the impact it might have on others, the sense of revictimization you might feel if the reporting is insensitive or causes a ‘victim blaming’ mentality and the sense of being re-traumatized by hearing and reading your story over again.
For more information about how to talk to the media, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime at; http://crcvc.ca/publications/if-the-media-calls/