Eagle eyed Crikey reader Warren Driver wrote:

I read and listened today to a string of reports around Australia that outlined research showing how “one in every three boys believes it is acceptable to hit girls and many children are routinely exposed to domestic violence, according to a disturbing survey”.

It has run prominently in newspapers and on radio stations. Somewhat surprised by the findings, I sought out the report. It hasn’t been released yet.

All that exists is a press release on the website of White Ribbon Day. It says the report can be obtained later today through a PR firm. The report was commissioned by White Ribbon Day organisers.

So, despite not knowing the methodology of the report, nor its accuracy and reliability, Australia’s mainstream media have run it as fact.

And he’s right. Go to the White Ribbon Day website and you”ll find the press release , embargoed to midnight Sunday, and a note that the detailed report “will be available online soon”. This didn’t stop multiple print outlets (there’s been a fair bit of radio too) from running with the yarn based purely on a press release that contains the following bald figures:

More than half a million teenagers are living with violence in the home a new White Ribbon Foundation report shows.

The report An Assault on Our Future: The impact of violence on young people and their relationships released today by White Ribbon shows that the violence is having a major impact on the long term health and wellbeing of Australia’s children.

White Ribbon Chairman Andrew O’Keefe says that the report highlights clear evidence that many boys hold violence supportive
attitudes:

  • Nearly one in seven (14%) of boys believe that “it’s OK to make a girl have s-x with you if she was flirting”;
  • Close to one in three (31%) boys believe “it’s not a big deal to hit a girl”;
  • nearly one in three (32%) boys believe”‘most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it”.

Boys aged between 12-14 show higher support for these sorts of attitudes.

Strong stuff, on an important issue, but absolutely no mention of the methodology. Not that this stopped various outlets from running it without a second thought. This is the print tally as of noon today, thanks to Media Monitors. Just remember: none of these papers had the benefit of seeing the report, just the press release. But that presumably was all the proof they needed.

A spokesman for White Ribbon Day was able to send Crikey the full report late this morning.

  • “Abuse takes its toll” Bendigo Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 2
  • “Violence scars kids” Sunshine Coast Daily, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Our houses of violence” Adelaide Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 1
  • “A quarter of young people see violence” Launceston Examiner, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Physical violence at home leaves mark” Sunraysia Daily, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Violence against women not a big deal” Canberra Times, 17/11/08, General News, Page 1
  • “Children miss out on skills” Herald Sun, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Report shows abuse impact” Geelong Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 9
  • “Domestic violence affects a quarter of kids” Townsville Bulletin, 17/11/08, General News, Page 8
  • “Seeing violence at home affects young” Border Mail, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Violence in home impacts our youth” Daily Liberal, 17/11/08, General News, Page 7
  • “One in four see abuse: report” Maitland Mercury, 17/11/08, General News, Page 6
  • “Violence all too familiar” Daily Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 38

Peter Fray

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