Sexual violence occurs during conflict of all kinds, be that large-scale warefare or insurgencies. Few journalistic challenges carry a greater weight of responsibility than interviewing the survivors. When rape is used in war, it has a devastating impact on individuals and their communities.
Over the last two years, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma has worked with journalists and filmmakers who have been covering conflict-related sexual violence in Iraq and Syria, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Colombia and many other situations, to develop new guidelines.
The advice contained will also be of use to anyone working on the current war in Ukraine who may find themselves documenting human rights abuses, involving torture or sexual violence.
The guidelines emerge from a recognition that every survivor owns their own story, and that journalism as a collective enterprise needs to do more to define and share best practice.
The goal is to achieve more accurate and insightful reporting, while reducing the risk of further harm to those brave enough to tell their stories.
Join this important discussion which should be of interest to anyone who works on the ground covering conflict or who cares about ensuring the quality of journalism delivered.
Journalist and member of the European board at Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma
Juliana Ruhfus is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker specialised in human rights and investigative work. Juliana currently works as an executive producer at BBC World Service TV. Prior to that she has produced films for some of the world’s largest broadcasters including Channel 4, WDR, and NHK but she is best known as the face of Al Jazeera English’s People & Power strand for which she reported from across the world.
Juliana serves on the board of directors for the Dart Centre (Europe), the board of trustees for the Environmental Justice Foundation, and on the advisory board for eyeWitness to Atrocities.
Mahim Maher is a journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan where she has worked for twenty years in print and digital with reporters and desks across the country. As one of the rare women to run a metropolitan section, for a violent megacity, she pivoted away from traditional ways of reporting violence against vulnerable groups such as women, children and minorities. One of the challenges was finding nuanced ways to ensure male crime reporters cover rape, gang rape, acid attacks with sensitivity. She works with rural area district correspondents in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to ensure coverage of taboo and religiously fraught violence (blasphemy case, forced conversions, GBV) and areas grappling with conflict and post-conflict changes given extremist violence. She has herself reported on homicide and crime and written on systemic violence. She has pushed for more data and mapping and more sensitive editorial art to accompany such stories and is regularly asked to hold workshops for sub-editors and reporters on these topics.
Dr Brock Chisholm is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with 20 years experience working with people who have experienced stress and trauma. He is a Founder of Trauma Treatment International, which supports people and organisations affected by traumas, particularly collective violence; a Trustee of Survivors UK, a charity providing psychological therapy to rape survivors; and the Clinical Lead and Trustee of The UK Psychological Trauma Society, the UK authority in the psychological consequences following traumatic events. He is on the UK team of experts on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative as well as providing expert witness to human rights lawyers, the International Criminal Court and the National Crime Agency. Brock has also worked extensively with journalists and media organizations including Jullian Assange, Founder of Wikileaks, Full Fact, Media Defence, Vice News, The Guardian, The New York Times and others. He has also collaborated with The Dart Centre as part of the Working with Sexual Violence in Conflict project.
Mais Al-Bayaa is an Iraqi-British freelance investigative producer and journalist. Since 2003, she has covered human rights abuses, corruption and other social and economic issues across the Middle East. Mais won the Award for Foreign Affairs Journalism at the British Journalism Awards in 2017, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award at the Frontline Club Awards and was nominated twice for the Emmys.
Leslie Thomas is the co-founder of MIRA Studio and founder of ART WORKS Projects. Leslie's film, The Prosecutors, follows the fight for justice in cases of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She recently produced A Letter to My Child, about the the experiences of a child born of rape told through the eyes of a mother, and with Amy Yenkin edited Witnesses to War: The Children of Syria, a book of photography by long-term partner Bassam Khabieh. Leslie is currently producing films on access to justice for war crimes in the Central African Republic and Syria as well as a documentary about the role of women in the Afghan peace process. Her collaborations with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence informed her work with the Dart Centre Europe on the Guidelines for Reporting on Sexual Violence.