Domestic abuse victims say reporting on violence must change

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Two brothers whose father shot their mother and younger sister have told a convention that media reporting of domestic violence needs to change.

In July 2016, Ryan and Luke Hart’s father Lance killed their mother, Claire, and younger sister, Charlotte, in the car park of a swimming pool in Spalding, England before taking his own life.

The brothers say media reports in the wake of the murders added to their trauma.

Speaking at Safe Ireland’s Safe World Summit in Dublin, Luke said: “Press coverage described the murders as ‘rare’ and ‘isolated’ and one even labelled it ‘understandable’.

“Locals and newspapers attempted to explain how a good man killed his family, not that he was a terrorist in clear sight.”

He added: “The existing myths were propagated, treating this as an isolated incident, and therefore apparently nothing needed to change, but its clear much needed to change, in particular media reporting.

“Our father had been searching online about men who kill their families for weeks before and saw media outlets justifying their actions.

“Even close friends of our mother asked if Mum had had an affair, and if she had, as if it would explained what had happened.

“Charlotte was ignored, which showed the control our father had of the narrative, the same control he had throughout our lives.”

The summit is a global gathering of speakers and delegates from across industries, social causes and life experiences.

The brothers, who have written a book about their experience of coercive control, say more needs to be done to recognise control as abuse.

Ryan said: “Growing up I never identified as a victim of domestic abuse.

“Our father was unpleasant but never hit us, I never considered control as abuse, it felt wrong but we were not empowered to complain because there was no single event we could point to.

“When he killed our mum and sister, our father was functioning as he always had.

“Nothing had changed, there was no breakdown, the men who murder their families hold traditional masculine beliefs, he just followed those views to conclusion with no concern for us.”

He added: “Men kill because they believe they can, or think they should.

“Domestic violence is far too common for it to be only perpetrated by anonymous monsters.

“Our dad’s behaviour was not understandable, it was an active choice he made everyday, and he chose to lay that burden on us.”

Safe Ireland continues on Tuesday with a focus on as gender, inclusion, diversity, equality, and justice from a range of speakers and experts.

In Ireland, eight women died violently in 2017. Six were killed in their own homes.

Since Ireland’s Women’s Aid Femicide Project began in 1996, 216 women have been killed (an average of 10 women per year) and 16 children have died alongside their mothers.

Around 56% of killers were current or former intimate partners.

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