The Media Is Once Again Failing A Female Victim Of Domestic Violence
Their names were Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey.
Hannah Clarke was her name.
Over the last 24 hours we’ve heard a lot about her estranged husband — the man who murdered Hannah and her three young kids by setting their car on fire in Brisbane yesterday.
She was the eighth woman in Australia to be killed by her partner in seven weeks.
Hannah Clarke was a business owner, a former trampoline champion, a kids gymnastics coach, and a loving mother.
She was also a victim of domestic violence, whose story has been overshadowed by that of the man who ended her life, and the lives of their three children.
— 💧The Angry Goddess (@Bishop64) February 19, 2020
I think we need to have an honest discussion about how media outlets erase the agency of violent men when talking about family & intimate partner violence pic.twitter.com/XMvjwdF5co
— Joshua Badge (@joshuabadge) February 19, 2020
Why the hell are we still seeing headlines and stories like this about #familyviolence? This wasn't some random car fire tragedy. A man killed his wife and kids #HannahBaxter pic.twitter.com/YkEAg60pj6
— Pauline Lockie (@paulinelockie) February 19, 2020
Once again, the media are being criticised for the way they have reported on an incident of domestic violence.
But it doesn’t matter that her husband was once an NRL player. It doesn’t matter that he was a top fitness coach. It doesn’t matter that he liked to post pictures of his kids on social media, vowing to be “the best dad and husband I can be until the day I die”.
What matters is that Child Safety had already been made aware of previous incidents of violence. That he walked up to his wife’s car, poured petrol on it, set it on fire and watched his children die. He told bystanders frantically trying to put out the flames to stop because he wanted to see his family burn. In his final act, he jumped into the burning car and stabbed himself to death, meaning he would never have to face the consequences of his actions.
This man was a monster, and he does not deserve the attention that he’s been given.
The way we report on crime matters. This is from the front page of the @smh – it takes 5 paragraphs before it is alleged that the man set the car on fire in an act of family violence. This wasn't a 'car fire'. It was a horrific crime. pic.twitter.com/Oc2hkdNcG7
— LadiesWhoLegspin (@LadiesWhoLeague) February 19, 2020
Hannah had reportedly separated from her husband and was staying with her parents, who had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster” according to sister-in-law Stacey Roberts.
She has set up an online fundraiser to help them cover funeral costs, where more than $40,000 has already been raised.
“As you may be aware my beautiful sister in-law and my nieces and nephew had their lives taken by a disgusting human being they called their father,” she wrote. “For all those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was, her children where her life.”
— Evie Rankmore (@EvieRankmore) February 19, 2020
Did a quick review of international headlines, found New Zealand are the only market reporting this for what it was. Murder.
— Stephen (@TheAviator1992) February 19, 2020
Our Watch, which works to prevent violence against women and children, has guidelines for how to report on violence against women. A key point — put the blame exactly where it’s deserved. A woman didn’t just die, she was murdered by her partner.
Initial reports across multiple outlets on the deaths of Hannah and her children fell well short of those guidelines.
“Witnesses have described the horrific scene of a car fire that killed an ex-rugby league player, his wife and three children on a suburban street in Brisbane,” wrote news.com.au.
“Ex-NRL player Rowan Baxter dies alongside his three kids, estranged wife in Brisbane car fire tragedy,” said a FOX Sports headline.
After the justified outrage, many outlets have since updated these stories.
But unfortunately women are let down time and time again by the media. Renxi’s Ouyang’s partner was described as “quietly spoken”. Amelia Blake’s partner was apparently “gentle”. The Port Lincoln man who shot his two kids and drove his car into the ocean was called “a top bloke”.
I don’t give a flying fuck about his community standing or his favourite sport. He is a murderer. He murdered his own fucking family. He did it because they were finally escaping him.
Cowardly for media to focus on anything else. #HannahBaxter
— David Gunsberg🏳️🌈 (@dgunsberg) February 19, 2020
Spoiler alert — They were murderers.
And the people they killed deserve better.
If you need support, 1800 Respect is available 24 hours for people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. Contact them on 1800 737 732.
An earlier version of this article referred to Hannah Clarke as Hannah Baxter — her family have since requested she be referred to by her maiden name.