Engaging with the Media: Training for people who’ve
experienced sexual and domestic abuse

15 June 2017 by Alana Avery

It was an early start on Saturday the 3rd of June, as a group of brilliant people who want to make a difference gathered for breakfast before the training began. The course was Engaging with the Media and the group was made up of people with personal experience of domestic abuse, domestic violence or sexual violence.

“Do one thing at a time! You can’t change the world in three minutes but you can change one thing.”

Engaging with the Media training course

It’s the second workshop of its kind we’ve run this year, forming part of our current project that will improve media coverage by bringing media influencers together with people with personal experience and/or people who work in the sector. We’re collaborating with experienced media trainer and former broadcaster, David Thomas, to create the tailored courses. They’ve been carefully designed in consultation with survivors and individuals who work in the sector.

So far we’ve trained 23 people which also include several staff representatives from organisations such as AVA, Hestia, Sisters Uncut, North London Rape Crisis Centre/Solace Women’s Aid and consultant social workers.

“I will prepare myself before interviews rather than ‘crashing’ through! Thank you!”

TV studio interview set-up

Supported by Trust for London, our aim is to skill up and support a network of activists who want to speak with the media and improve understanding of sexual violence and domestic abuse. This network, currently involves nearly 30 individuals, with personal experience and practitioners who work in the sector. They are taking part in our behind-the-scenes work, meeting with senior media professionals and influencing those with decision-making power and budgets to make better and more accurate content about these issues.

A vital part of the media training involves self-care and peer support, looking after yourself before, during and after any engagement with the media, knowing when to turn things down, what to ask before accepting an interview. Our trainees also learnt about how the media works, how to prepare for interviews, and practised several different interview set-ups in mock-live studio settings.

Delegates on the training course

Peer support

Alongside the media training courses, we are running monthly, peer support group meetings. These sessions, facilitated by Nathalie McDermott, bring individuals from our growing network together to share reflections, tips on engaging with the media and concerns with speaking out and working with the media.

By encouraging the group to support each other, we’re seeing a more resilient, focused and engaged network of people grow in confidence and strength and collaborating with journalists and broadcasters in various ways. One member of the network gave us this feedback:

“Thank you for letting me become part of this special group, I really feel very honoured.  It has given me a lot more to think about and I was surprised by the feelings of being connected in some way, without knowing anything about anyone in the room. It was abundantly clear that everyone felt happy, comfortable and safe and could have stayed for longer.”  

Meeting journalists and broadcasters

Many are taking part in our media interactions – carefully curated and informal meet-ups with senior media professionals designed to move people and build relationships which lead to collaboration and better content. For example, this month we’ll be meeting with a group of editors from The Observer.

Outcomes from these interactions so far include a video series which looks at the reality of what it means to be a survivor, what rape culture is, and what it means to live and fight through it with The Independent. And we’ve also been collaborating with programmes like BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on several ideas about life after abuse.

Delegates using flip cameras during the day-long course

One of our facilitators, Winnie Li, who is supported by our network took part in an interaction with Metro online and wrote ‘How to support someone who has been raped’. And we’ve also supported her with handling the publicity around her newly published novel, Dark Chapter, inspired by her own experience of assault and rape. Check out the Daily Mail’s review of her book.

Finally, we’re excited to say that a new website and branding for this work will be live later in the summer, so please watch this space!

If you’d like to get involved or hear more about our work, please visit the Project page, read our last blog on why we’re doing this work, or get in touch.  And if you’d like to become part of the network and come to a training course, please contact alana@onroadmedia.org.uk.