Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

We need your help!

We are in the process of writing a post about language related to Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse, and we need your help.

We have our own views on terms that are used (specifically in the media) around this issue, and we'd like your contributions in order to make this a collective piece.

Please tell us which terms infuriate you, and why.  You can add a comment below this post, or your can email us [email protected].  All contributions in confidence, as per our Confidentiality Policy.

To start us off, here are our terms that we find enraging:

Child Sex

Acrimonious/Tempestuous/Volatile Relationship

Isolated Incident

Child Pornography

Sex Crime

That's just for starters... All contributions are welcome!


Comments are currently closed.

31 thoughts on “We need your help!

  • Referring to domestic violence as a ‘fleeting thing’ really riled me – so much so I wrote a piece about it http://lexiconlane.co.uk/domestic-abuse-is-not-a-fleeting-thing/

    Child pornography is another completely inappropriate term – it’s child abuse pure and simple, not porn.

  • Andrea Twist says:

    I hate the phrase ‘batterer’ and ‘battered women’ – it only focuses on physical abuse, ignoring emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. Plus it just seems quite vulgar to me.

    For the same reason I sometimes dislike ‘domestic violence’ on it’s own, though I appreciate that ‘domestic violence and abuse’ can be a bit wordy sometimes.

    Child prostitute – assumes they had a choice to take up the vocation! To me ‘child sex slave’ still labels the child – think it is better to say ‘child forced into sexual slavery’.

    Add to list above ‘stormy relationships’ for abusive ones.

    • Admin says:

      We agree – and thanks for commenting as we might have missed this one. ‘Battered’ is used very often in the US, we’ve noticed.
      Although a Common Assault charge in the UK can be ‘Assault by Battering’. Not a helpful phrase, for all the reasons that you have outlined.

    • Alison says:

      I totally agree about the word ‘battered’, this was used in a headline article about Nigella in the DM recently. It made me SO cross that I wrote about it.

      I agree on the other points too and think that perhaps ‘domestic violence and abuse’ needs to be referred to differently. I used ‘relationship violence and abuse’ in my piece. Have seen ‘intimate partner violence/terrorism’ used too.

  • I posted this on my FB. A friend has written this in response:

    Extenuating circumstances

    Alleged violence (during court for contact with kids – even after police involvement)

  • I’ve got more suggestions from friends on FB:

    Murder suicide for domestic violence.

    provoked/ provocative

    interpersonal violence

    gendered violence

    domestic altercation

    referring to rape as ‘having sex’

    referring to a rape/assault case EVER as a “sex case”

    variations like ‘sex controversy’, ‘sex scandal’

    date rape

    underage sex” – often a euphemism for “statutory rape” (if under that lower age barrier) or just plain old “child rape” if aged, say, 15

    suicide pact” where in fact what’s nearly always happened is a man has made a pact with himself to murder a woman and then (too late) top himself

    “Tragic incident” when referring to such cases really pisses me off as well, it nicely scoops up the man who died and includes him as a victim, of his own helpless macho rage presumably.

    “a lovers’ tiff” – usually ends in door slamming or refusing to share a bar of chocolate in my experience, rather than, say, at the morgue

    “out of the blue” or “complete shock” or “totally unpredictable” when used to describe a murder within a relationship where the violent partner had already been reported to the police (or even FOUND GUILTY) previously.

    for me its the complete lack of naming who is the perpetrator…..should be MVAWG Male Violence Against Women & Girls.

  • And, another one by a friend:

    It may seem trivial but I really hate the way a woman’s partner/boyfriend is referred to as her ‘lover’. It is not a term used anywhere else. It is used by the media because it implies promiscuity. And we all know that violence against a promiscuous woman is not as bad as violence against the other kind.

  • Emily says:

    Why doesn’t she leave?

    Why does she put up with it?

    We definitely need to change the conversation.

  • Guy says:

    Behind closed doors
    Family/private matter

  • Dawn Taylor says:

    Tumultuous relationship.

    Anyone who describes a domestic violence relationship as a “tumultuous relationship” neither knows anything about domestic violence nor how a perpetrator ‘works’. This descriptive places responsibility upon BOTH the perpetrator AND the victim; this is unfair, irrelevant, misleading and inaccurate a description and forces us, yet again, to question why domestic violence remains the hidden crime that Society simply refuses to understand and acknowledge whilst this ‘silence’ feeds the epidemic that domestic violence is, left to grow in numbers and intensity, impacting innocent people on a daily basis.

  • Dawn Taylor says:

    “It’s a Domestic”.

    Undermining the severity of abuse and violence of a partner, condemning an innocent person to yet more abuse and violence whilst, again, attributing the victim as somehow “responsible’ for bringing the abuse and violence upon themselves.

    A statement all-too-readily heard and made by persons in authority such as the police which is indicative of society’s general view and approach to domestic violence. A mindset that reinforces society’s ‘acceptance’ rather than deal with this increasingly worrying menace.

    Domestic violence is the CHOICE decision of the perpetrator. Plain and simple fact.

    A victim of domestic violence and abuse is NEVER, EVER to blame.

    The perpetrator chooses to abuse. The perpetrator chooses violence.

  • Chris says:

    I hate the new one being bandied about at the moment “troubled families”

  • Karen Ingala Smith says:


    Prostitute – when used instead of woman

  • Emmy Vesta says:

    I cannot stand when they say “crime of passion” instead of saying domestic abuse, it has nothing to do with passion.

    Or when they say sexual assault instead of rape, sodomy, molestation, etc. they throw it all under a single umbrella. It makes it easier for people to dismiss it.

    Same with “stalking” they usually never qualify it with domestic abuse stalking.

    They way the news presents domestic violence lets the general public easily dismiss it all.

  • Elizabeth. says:

    Karen i agree The case that springs to mind is the murders in Ipswich seven years ago. The media kept referring to them as prostitutes rather than women. I remember getting angry about it at the time.

    And ive heard the media use the word harassment when its a case of stalking which belittles and diminishes the crime.

  • cath says:

    Child prostitute – no there is no such thing, there is an abused crime.

    I also hate when women are referred to as a prostitute, not a woman.

    Domestic violence – when it is used as being not as bad as ‘propper’ violence.

  • Dawn Taylor says:

    “Domestic Violence”.

    It’s Violence.

    Give it it’s real name.

  • When women are referred to as “mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend” instead of woman or by their name. For example, I’ve seen press accounts of the recent murder of Linzi Ashton referring to “Murder of mother of two”, and most of us knew Reeve Steenkamp as “Girlfriend of …” we knew her name.

  • Karen Ingala Smith says:

    Innocent victim – because of what it implies about those not deemed innocent.

  • Mel Jeffs says:

    All of the above plus:

    ‘Isolated incident’ when used in connection with a DV murder. These are not isolated incidents- either for the victim or for society as a whole. Usually used in connection with not explicitly stating that this is a DV murder but used to ‘reassure the public’. Well we’re not reassured and we’re not buying it!

  • Alison says:

    All of the language used when reporting violence against women diminishes what it is in my view. The onus is always on the woman to somehow control male behaviour by not provoking a reaction. Even the defence of ‘provocation’ implies that it is somehow the fault of murdered woman, when this has been used by men who have murdered current or former partners. The inevitable questions which are always asked about women in violent and abusive relationships, such as why didn’t she leave, why did she put up with it, what was she doing with him in the first place? etc shift the blame away from the perpetrator to the abused.

    We see the same with rape. Why did she get so drunk? What was she wearing? What did she do to lead him on? It’s relentless.

  • Alison says:

    Another of my hates, is the misuse of the term ‘scandal’ ie ‘Jimmy Savile scandal’ et al headlines screaming out, minimising his abuse and putting it on a par with sex ‘scandals’ involving consenting adults. The scandal is that so many enabled and refused to challenge him, including the press which of course is not the intended meaning here.

  • Alison says:

    And another one – paedophile. A weasel word as not only does it mean ‘lover of children'(they are child rapists), I have seen debates where people split hairs about it referring to child abusers of post-pubescents as ‘hebephiles’ and using this to somehow minimise child rape as well as derail. And the likes of Tom O’Carroll try to appropriate it in a benign sense of poor men who do not harm children but are sexually attracted to them, arguing that it is like homosexuality in the sense that one does not choose to be a ‘paedophile’. On this note, any term such a ‘intergenerational sex’ and ‘pederast’ are also vile terms designed to make us normalise and accept child abuse.

  • Elizabeth. says:

    Best magazine have launched a campaign against domestic abuse which they have dubbed the Talk and Walk campaign. The idea is good but im uncomfortable with the title of the campaign. The phrase “Talk and Walk” seems to put the onus on the victim again. Where are the campaigns telling abusers not to abuse.
    They also have an interview with Leslie Morgan Steiner and above one of the pictures of her is the phrase “Battered Wife” I appreciate that this campaign is probably trying to help but they have to be careful not to victim blame and/or sensationalise. I really cant be sure that a celebrity magazine is the right launchpad for a campaign like this.

  • […] post is a collective piece, thanks to all who have contributed. It is going to focus on men who abuse women and children. We acknowledge that there are female […]

  • Alison says:

    I hate the use of the term ‘Lolita’ when applied to supposedly sexually precocious teens. Lolita was manipulated, abused, raped and exploited by the vile Humbert from whom she escaped. Yet it has somehow become subverted to symbolise a child who is manipulative and overtly sexual.

  • Elizabeth. says:

    Know its a bit late but the phrase “She likes the bad boys” is a phrase that makes my teeth itch. Ive heard it said more than once about Rihanna when she was dating Chris Brown and ive heard people make references to it in my earshot about people i know physically too. I hate this phrase.

  • Malinda says:

    I hate to hear statements of shocked neighbors as they stand before a smoldering house “but he was such a wonderful person,” after an out of control abuser has annihilated his entire family and then turned the gun on himself or blows up the house with everyone inside.