OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Cultivating Relationships Between Victim Service Providers and the Media
Greg Luft, Anne Seymour  -  2008/1/30
How do we identify a client who would be prepared emotionally and psychologically for media inquiry/involvement?
1.  Greg Luft
 Anne will have better insight on this question from the victim perspective. From a media perspective, I believe journalists have to consider this question well in advance of any event that might occur. My personal experience as a journalist indicates that journalists have a great deal of pressure to get victim reaction at the time of the event. Training in advance will help them understand that victims need time, and need to have help talking through the issue and understanding it themselves before they can be expected to respond to journalists. The amount of time probably varies dramatically depening on the event and the victims personal involvement.
How do we ensure that the process is curative for the clients healing process as well as helpful to the agency as a spokesperson?
1.  Greg Luft
 Journalists must allow victims to express themselves fully, and then to be very careful in representing the essence of the interview in the segments that are actually used in print. A great deal of sensitivity is necessary, and maturity helps a great deal. Journalists who have been through similar, personal events tend to be much more adept at this. At the same time, if victims can be coached in advance about the specifics they want to include in the interview, so that they don't have afterthoughts about things they wish they included, but didn't, they will be more happy with the event.
What are the best tools for preparing/rehearsing with the client in advance?
1.  anne seymour
 THANKS for asking this! Justice Solutions has developed three handbooks re: victims and the media: for survivors, for advocates, and the first ever for journalists. the handbook for survivors is chock-full of great tips on preparation, as is the advocate handbook. PLEASE join my listserv by sending a BLANK email to: MondayMissives-subscribe@yahoogroups.com, and once the handbooks are published following OVC review, you'll be the first to know about it!
2.  Greg Luft
 I think the best tool is to anticipate the questions that might be asked and to practice answering those questions. Victims should be coached to answer questions with the message they want to get across, thus, being proactive, rather than reactive in the answers. I think the only way to ensure this is to anticipate, practice and review.
How detailed should the client be with regards to her abuse history?
1.  anne seymour
 That is up to the individual victim/survivor, no hard and fast rule. an advocate can work with victims to help them understand their choices and consequences related to divulging personal histories. of course, SAFETY FIRST is the golden rule!
Do you have some advice regarding relationships with the media for programs who are doing a statewide initiative? What is the best way to reach the media in distant parts of the state?
1.  Amanda Breeden
 Can you talk about ways to reach state wide media that are more cost effective? For instance, it appears my state association charges substantial fees for sending press releases. Are there other ways to access the same information?
2.  Greg Luft
 States also have press associations, which usually are quite inclusive with even the smallest papers. Broadcasting associations also are prevalent, with membership that includes both radio and television outlets.
3.  Douglas Leach
 We are also interested in the statewide topic as we think about a media kit for agencies so that when an incident happens the response it unified and ties the incident back to the larger picture e.g. Did you know that in CA there are XXX number of deaths related to DV and the same message comes from all agencies either in response to media inquiries or by agency calls to media
4.  anne seymour
 Barb, every state has media associations, i.e., Society of Professional Journalists, that are great contacts. ALSO be creative with outreach; sometimes weekly newspapers and cable TV and rural radio stations are great sources for media outreach.
1) What is the best approach if an agency has an issue they would like investigated or researched to increase public awareness of a problem related to victim services? Is it better for the victim to approach the media, for the agency to start the dialogue, or for both to contact the media as a unified entity? 2) If the issue is relevant to multiple victims (ie continued plea reductions of dv batteries)and the victims are not perhaps aware of all the issues related to the situation, what is the best way to get the media involved?
1.  anne seymour
 Candace, great question! I highly suggest a tag team approach with advocate and victim, and/or advocate/prosecutor/victim. The power of the personal story of survivors is critical in all media interactions. It's OUR job, and the job of CJS professionals, to provide the nuanced, detailed information about issues that need to be addressed. Just make sure the victim is well-prepared in advance of any interviews and, with more than one interviewee, that responses are planned to the degree possible in advance.
The Identity Theft Resource Center is constantly asked for victims to speak to the media. However, like victims of rape and other highly personal crimes, many are reluctant to speak publicly. I find myself educating media about victim emotional impact and still they abuse the interview process. Any ideas on how to better control the media other than to do this as a three way call?
1.  anne seymour
 You are doing the right thing by educating the media. The goal is not to control the media, as that is not our role, and frankly impossible, haha! Our goal is to educate and inform. Again, the three new Justice Solutions Handbooks address this important issue. Also provide information on how to identify victims and prepare them in advance for media interactions. It's important to be careful to not re-victimize survivors via media interviews.
We tend to struggle with the media showing up at the victims' homes, employment, etc. How can we get the message across that they need to practice privacy and sensitivity when victims have just been victimized?
1.  Greg Luft
 Help the victim to understand that reporters are looking for material, and that less traumatized family members or representatives for the family (who might be advocates) should be available somewhere to answer questions. This is a tough one, because reporters in the field are pressured by their producers and editors to come back with material. The best solution would be to convince organizations to adopt guidelines about how to approach these issues. Some orgs have done that well in advance. Others need help.
In covering domestic violence matters, the main newspaper in our area frequently only wants to talk directly to victims or survivors for their "take" on current happenings. The paper tends to not see the value in hearing advocates' input. A) It is not always possible for survivors to talk directly to media, and B) Advocates also have an important perspective to contribute. How do you recommend making these points, especially B, to the newspaper?
1.  Greg Luft
 Sometimes it requires that you are quite persistent and as annoying as reporters might sometimes seem. Journalists are trained to seek good stories, and often they see that as finding the true emotion of any situation. Victims are seen as a more direct route to that emotion. As an advocate, it is necessary to be strong, succinct and determined so that reporters will be confident that you can help tell the story as effectively as the victim.
What are your suggestions for forging positive partnerships between local media entities and local domestic violence victim advocacy agencies? In our community, this work may involve overcoming a tendency for the media to feel it might involve "bias" for them to work with us (advocates), that they seem to wish to remain "neutral".
1.  Greg Luft
 I would suggest seeking out press clubs, local media organizations and entities and propose panels and events that acquaint the representative parties involved. Also, letters to the editor, meetings with editors and news managers, invitations to advocacy events all can contribute to better understanding. In larger cities, you can request Public Service Announcement representation with the TV station, though the time available is quite limited.
Our newspaper has recently run several articles where they decribe the names of the parents (the perpetrators) and the detail of the sex acts they performed on or required their child to perform on them. The victim's name is left out of the article, but it is easy for classmates and the community to figure it out. How to best approach the editor to refrain from such identifying or describing details that revictimize? Thanks, Erin
1.  Greg Luft
 Erin, this is one of the toughest and most common concerns that I think media and victims encounter. I hate to keep using the word proactive, but it's important to respond to issues and offer advice to individual media entities to that they understand how this type of information filters into often unintended locations and social environments.
2.  anne seymour
 Excellent question! I would first check to see if the media outlet has its own code of ethics, and then be familiar with the code that guides the specific media profession, i.e., print, broadcast, photojournalism, etc. Almost ALL media refrain from IDing survivors without explicit permission. You need to point out to the editors/reporters that by IDing the parents, the child is easily IDd, then take the opportunity to educate them about the devastating impact this can have on an already traumatized child. I think it's GREAT to have the chance to speak to editors; even better to schedule a meeting with editorial boards or news directors to discuss this issue, as a springboard to address general media sensitivity.
Ann, Do you have a list of do's and don't for community-based homicide support group organizations that can have a positive impact on awareness of homicide victims? Concerning unsolved cases, how should we approach the media to bring some attention to this area with the victims permission?
1.  anne seymour
 Hi Marvin, great to hear from you! The do's are to start with educating the media about homicide family survivors or co-victims. I think too often it's tough for them to think beyond the victim who was killed. So educating them about survivors is critical, and having survivor spokespersons, also critical. Unsolved cases is a pretty hot issue right now, and I'd suggest looking to OVC and NCJRS for the resources that emerged from their conference, I think it was 2006, that addressed unsolved homicides. Call me later and we can chat in more detail abou this! Onto next question, fingers tired.....!
As a victim advocate, I want to establish trust and confidence in the press before an incident occurs. It appears to me that media operates differently; dashing from one "hot topic" to the next as if planning/preparing with victim service providers compromises autonomy. Any ideas about bridging this apparent culture gap?
1.  Carol Martin
 Living in a small rural town, I have the advantage of close contact with the two local newspapers. In order to foster cooperation and support from the media, I have been willing to alert them when a high-profile case was scheduled for court (especially when it is an unexpected scheduling of a hearing). I have also let them know that I will be a buffer between them and the victim; they respect that approach in the light of my willingness to keep them in the loop.
2.  isabel
 Who could help us do a video with testimoninals with clients we have to present at community presentations so we can cover up the victim's face?
3.  Greg Luft
 Yes, I think you need to get to know as many of the media as posssible. Be proacative in offering training. Understand that the media are ALWAYS under deadline. Be present if you can to work as an intermediary. Offer help to reporters after screening victims to avoid inappropriate or unfortunate responses. Be an advocate both for victims and reporters.
I am new to media relations, do you have any tips for me?
1.  anne seymour
 Yes, being new can work to your advantage, as you are not jaded and cynical as some older folks like me get to be, haha! I would suggest getting a basic book on Journalism 101 and/or media relations, and learn how journalists are taught. I would advise you to not FEAR the media, but consider them as important resources for victimpublic awareness. For nonprofits, I always suggest that they get a journalists or PR professional on the BOD or advisory board; always good to have someone you can run issues by. ALSO check in with seasoned victim advocates, and ask them for advice - trust me, they will have plenty! Me too, if you want to email or chat later.....thanks for your question and good luck!
Our coalition is really trying to gain more participation from the media. What are some basic ideas that we can implement through out our coalition that will get more participation and support from the media outlets?
1.  anne seymour
 Get a journalist on board with your coalition in an advisory capacity, or even on your BOD. Seek probono support from a PR or advertising firm that can help you develop a comprehensive media plan. Cultivate victim spokespersons. Be available and on-call 247 with advocate spokespersons. Be prepared to offer a local angle to any national news stories. When you have new laws being introduced, provide the local angle to its potential impact. AND have local stats available that are regularly updated on crime, victimization, impact on victims and community, etc.
What are some new creative ideas for bringing awarenss to dv?
1.  Amanda
 I would suggest online social outlets -campaigns designed to target younger audiences can be (inexpensively) built through online social networks. This is something I would like to implement in my organization to build dv awareness. Blogs are also a good forum for this, if done properly.
What suggestions do you have for victim interaction with the media during a high profile trial?
1.  Greg Luft
 I would also suggest that victims refer all questions to their attorneys, who should have a much better handle on how specific cases might be impacted by comments and information.
2.  Laura Wells
 Does media have any obligation not to ask the victim for a statement for these reasons?
3.  anne seymour
 Generally, during ANY trial, I advise victims to avoid speaking to the media, as it could result in change of venue, mistrial, etc. It's important to coordinate closely with the prosecutor in ANY case, and it's also important to respect the victim's decision to speak or not. AS LONG as they understand the possible consequences. MEDIA COORDINATION with CJS officials, and of course, following any judicial orders, are essential in ALL cases! Thanks for a great question!
Greg, do you have any suggestions about how to "prepare" or "train" the media? In my experience, they are extremely resistant to this, partly because they already believe they are victim-sensitive.
1.  anne seymour
 Barb, Anne here as well. JS's new handbook written by Bonnie Bucqueroux, who heads up the MSU Victims and the Media program, is designed just for that. Available soon from Justice Solutions.....
How do you recommend dealing with a reporter who clearly crosses the lines of propriety and sensitivity when interviewing a victim?
1.  Greg Luft
 I recommend direct contact, but in a friendly manner. Introduce yourself, explain that your role is to help victims get through the experience, and remind the reporter that victims are just that, not simple storytelling vehicles or perpetrators. My experience is that younger, less experienced reporters are more likely to act in an unacceptable manner.
How can we prepare victims to handle media coverage, especially unwanted media coverage?
1.  anne seymour
 The two new handbooks coming out from Justice Solutions thoroughly address this, so I would again suggest joining my listserv to be the FIRST to learn when they are e-published. For now, help victims to understand the media and their role (not as friend but as objective purveyor of news), and how the media work. Prepare victims in advance for the types of questions the media might ask. Coordinate all pending cases with the prosecutor, and if there are any judicial rulings following media interactions, make sure the victim understands them. ALSO advice on how to keep answers short; you don't need to answer a question that is insensitive; explain editing to victims; always try to find out who else the journalist has spoken to/is going to interview (particularly defendants or convicted offenders), etc. This is a GREAT question that requires about eight hours of answers! Please join MMM listserv to get the new handbooks!
The portrayal of sexual assault survivers in the media becomes sometimes a re-victimization of the survivor, especially when (in many/most cases) alcohol/drugs are part of the equation. How can we as Victim Advocates educate the media, (especially the print media) in an effective way about this, so they can hear it and act accordingly?
1.  anne seymour
 Silvia, great question! Too many folks view alcohol/other drugs as causal factor in sexual assault, versus correlating so that is an important factor for media education! I would focus on ALL the ways we blame sexual assault victims, and then equate the fact that only about 15 percent ever report to the blame/shame issues. ALSO, of course, having survivors who can speak out about the alcohol/other drug issue AND blame issues is helpful. Thanks for your question....
How do we get media access in a rural community?
1.  Carol Martin
 I, too, am in a rural area and do not always have time to make the media contacts that I need to get the word out about services for victims. However, a couple of my victims have very good relationships with local media personnel and they have done the leg work for me by writing letters to the editor in support of victim services and by contacting the media to cover victim related events.
2.  anne seymour
 Figure out who you know in the rural area, i.e, persons in leadership positions that can help carry your message to the media. Determine how folks get their news, i.e., a lot of radio, often cable TV, and weekly newspapers and news-throwaways are great sources. It takes a bit more work in rural communities, but I can't tell you how many times I've done rural radio following the farm report, and get lots of call-ins! Oh yes, that is a good tip too! Determine ALL radio stations in your region that have call-in opps, and use them! You can respond to, say a discussion about the economy on the radio, then tweak/turn your answer to economic impact on victims. It's actually fun to take radio call-in issues and practice turning them into victim-related responses!
If a funder wanted to provide support for building the capacity of agencies to respond to the media, how would you suggest they best get started and can you suggest resources for expertise?
1.  Douglas Leach
 We are a funder but we are limited to working within CA and we are supporting the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the statewide group that represents all the shelter agencies in the state. We are focused on the current core support for CA shelters and are just thinking ahead. I wouldn't encourage any proposals from others at this time. I will be monitoring the work being done in this area in hopes of better understanding a role we might play. You can visit our website at www.blueshieldcafoundation.org for more information about our work. Hope this helps
2.  Jeanne Noordsy
 Mr. Leach, we are curious whether your question was about how the funder would go about beginning a funding project of this nature, or how agencies would make proposals for such funding. Could you clarify this? Funding for such projects is certainly needed. We would be very interested in hearing any more information that might be available about funding opportunities for victim advocates working with the media.
3.  anne seymour
 Thanks for this focus on building capacity, as media outreach is critical to doing this. Over 20 years ago, communities/states used to sponsor victims and the media forums with survivors, advocates, CJS professionals, and print/broadcast media; pretty much a full-day event that included ALL perspectives; victim impact panel; and opportunities to discuss mutual issues of concern. I would suggest this as a CONCRETE activity to the funder, as they meet with remarkable success, and promote greater understanding of key issues and concerns (note, understanding and not always agreement). I would again suggest getting Justice Solutions' three handbooks when they are published online, hopefully soon, as they are FULL of great ideas! Thanks for your question....
Do you have any tips on developing a Speaker's Bureau?
1.  Greg Luft
 Yes, identify a variety of individuals both within the media and advocay roles who you know have some experience either reporting on crime and the legal system, or, from the advocacy point of view, those who have had experience with media. You can do this by calling newspapers, television stations and advocacy offices, also asking for help about topic lists and approaches to get the word out.
As a victim advocate it is difficult at the time of an incident to prepare a victim/survivor for the media interest due to their emotional state. How can this be handled so that all needs are met?
How do you help local reporters to see your organization as the "expert" in domestic violence, rape/sexual assault, etc.? Specifically, how do you help them to understand that they can and should call your organization to put into perspective any story related to these issues?
1.  Greg Luft
 I don't think there's a better way than building interpersonal relationships with individuals. Assignment editor positions are a great place to start. Find out who determines story selection, make contact and start building a relationship. Also volunteer your time when an event happens to help find story angles and ideas that stretch beyond the standard reactive approach. Journalists LOVE people who have good ideas for fresh approaches to stories.
What the best approach to raise awareness from a cultural perspective about the issue of domestic violence and visbility about the available services using the media as a way of communication to the lager community?
1.  Jeanne Noordsy
 Just following up about Anne's comment about how is DV even defined especially in patriarchal culture -- we are a community participating in the DELTA Project (primary prevention of domestic violence, focusing on social norms changing to undo the root supports for violence against women, out of CDC at national level and NYS Coalition Against DV at our state level.) It's been interesting seeing the media respond to this -- they've praised our work with teen boys in schools around challenging traditional gender socialization, etc. I'd like to build on that and open their eyes to the institutionalized sexism in so many aspects in our society. We haven't tried a lot proactively yet with the media, in this area, other than invite them to attend and cover our events...thinking about what we might try, if time allowed...?
2.  Greg Luft
 I think a regularly-updated resource handbook and guide of people who can serve as information sources, provided to media is a great start.
3.  anne seymour
 Thanks for your sensitivity to cultural competence in both victim services AND media relations. First tip is to have diversity in your spokespersons, who can address different cultures, faiths, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and the specific impact of domestic violence. Then an important message is that culture is NO barrier to domestic violence; that DV cuts a vicious swath across all cultures. I think it's also a good idea to address cultural nuances within specific cultures, working closely with gatekeepers and survivors of such cultures. For example, in some patriachal cultures, what is even defined as DV often differs significantly from how you and I would define it.....role of the extended family.....barriers to victims accessing services....etc. etc. etc. Wish I had five hours to write about this!
Somewhat related to some of the other discussion -- I'm puzzled as to why a newspaper in our area seems to downplay the importance of getting the input of (domestic violence ) advocates on various DV related issues in the news. They always want to talk directly to victims/survivors (not neccessarily victim connected to current crime, but to the victim community in general). Of course that's important, but the perspective of the wider movement is very important too. Any tips for making that case?
1.  Greg Luft
 You need to remember that reporters are individuals who have to create products every day to justify their existence and paychecks. So when an event happens, that's the idea for the day. Plan in advance to offer story ideas in advance and follow up stories the day and week after an event. Journalists are reactionary to events, but rely on press releases and follow up opportunities when an event isn't actually in progress.
2.  anne seymour
 Great question, Jeanne! My advice is to make yourself invaluable, with data and statistics and LOCAL info about DV and its impact on victims, families, communities. Think also about doing outreach around days/weeks that are NOT October, for example, Valentine's Day (coming up) with love is not violence or something like that, or other holidays. AND your point on the wider movement is great - keep educated about what's going on with VAWA (join the NNEDV listserv) and VOCA (visit www.navaa.org for regular updates); state laws and policies; challenges within the CJS and family and juvenile courts, etc. When you are viewed as a go to professional who is a reliable resource that the media can't do without, it's a good thing! Thanks for your question....
It can be difficult to get media to attend a public awareness event around violence prevention, what do you recommend?
1.  Greg Luft
 Plan events on weekends, when there tends to be less news. Schedule well-known local personalities and try to create visual opportunities. Also, it's a good idea to have case studies, and people willing to talk about their experiences, available in advance of an event to generate interest.
2.  anne seymour
 It's important to realize that media get tons of requests to attend special events, so you need an angle to make yours really stand out. I would make sure to have LOTS of good local data about levels of violence and impact on individuals and communities. I would offer seasoned advocates or survivors who can address the issue. And it never hurts to have the Mayor or some other community leader, i.e., prosecutor, speak, as then their press folks will help with outreach. KEY ISSUE: Have an angle, something unique that grabs the media's attention!!
Is it best to do one massive state wide media campaign or to break it down into each individual program area? We get some media involvement, but not a lot.
1.  anne seymour
 I like to quote Tip O'Neill, who said All politics are local. I think a statewide campaign is faboo and encouraged, as it shows a united front of victims, advocates, justice folks, etc. But a good statewide media plan should have guidelines for developing the local angle, that emphasizes how the issue affects individuals within a community, as well as the community itself.
I have been following the discussion today and am learning a lot on dealing with the media. I was a volunteer for Working Against Violence for 17 years and it took nearly all of those years to get the media onboard with our agency. They finally learned from us that our clients really needed their privacy - unless the clients wished to discuss details. I was interviewed one-on-one with our local newspaper several years ago and the person doing the interview was very sympathetic and interested in what WAVI was doing for the community. Today - there is a much better relationship within the local community and what the news media prints in the new or on TV. The media is very careful what information they give on TV/newpaper when there is a sexual assault trial now.
1.  Greg Luft
 I think this is a testament to the need for perserverance. It is TOUGH to get the media on board, as journalists tend to be locked in on approaches and techniques.
2.  anne seymour
 Marilyn, first bless your heart for hanging in their for 17 years; cultivating good relationships with the media DOES take time! I again suggest that advocates not fear the media; and that we always look for opps to educate them, especially with victims and the media forums. Hopefully for ya'll out there, it won't take 17 years! But like Marilyn, diligence IS required!
Hello Ann, I am new to the U.S. Parole Commission & the criminal justice system. As the Vicitm/Witness Coordinator, what will be the best avenue to take, when utilizing the media, to increase the community awareness concerning the U.S. Parole Commission and helping victims understand the criminal justice system (specifically the Parole process). Are you available to provide training?
1.  anne seymour
 Hi Lisa, we are LONG overdue for a visit! Knowing the Commission and that fact that it's role has changed considerably since 1996, I think you need to examine ALL your victim information and public awareness information; and let folks know specific things about the Commission's role. ALSO clarifying that you oversee old Federal cases that were parole-eligible, as well as current cases within DC. I would suggest that we meet with the USAO office, CSOSA, Mayor's Office of Victim Services, kumbaya group to get collaborative input on how to educate about CJS and parole; these folks have oodles of great information and resources. And yes, I am available for training after mid-June, but visiting ASAP. Regards to my dear friend Chairman Ed!
I often work with reporters on stories re: sexual assault. I sometimes have difficulty getting these reporters to see that they have a real opportunity within their piece to get the word out that help is available for other victims (ie- through a hotline). Any tips on how to best communicate this message?
1.  Greg Luft
 Don't wait until an event happens. Try to create story opportunities for reporters in advance, perhaps around individuals who benefitted by hotline experiences, so that when it comes to an actual story, they can rely on better personal knowledge about a situation and perhaps integrate that pre-existing knowledge into the current story.
Are there media resources available that can show you how to form and implement a media plan? State wide and local as well?
1.  Greg Luft
 Yes. Many organizations already have media plans in place. For instance, the Red Cross, the Police Department or other disaster-related agencies. These often are public documents. Your local university may have someone who teaches public relations that could help to develop a media plan. Many agencies post these plans online, so when in doubt, google it.
Our local media does not do many PSA's anymore & when they do they air them in the middle of the night. Most TV & newspapers are using their web sites for PSa's. What is the best way to create a Web PSA?
1.  Greg Luft
 It depends on whether you want print, audio or video for your PSA. Generally, whichever medium you want to use, the process is the same as for broadcast or print. A written PSA announcement is received more credibly if presented in print-ready form, or at least with appropriate spelling and grammar. A PSA made for a TV station's website needs good production values, a strong message, and must meet the time guidelines established by the broadcast outlet (and of course the length guidelines set by publications). I think the submission guidelines are different for each organization, so you may need to do some research with each organization to discover their preferences.
2.  anne seymour
 Gail, I don't know; great question to which I don't know the answer! If Greg can't answer, please contact me next week and I'll do some research and find out some good advice. Wow, stump the OVC Web Forum Presenter -- you WIN!
Just a suggestion. In past years during NCVRW we have organized a Victim Rights & the Media Roundtable discussion. This included Victims, Victim Service providers, prosecution & Law Enforcement. Everyone learned so much from each others perspective and much improvement resulted.
1.  Greg Luft
 A great idea, and it's also a good idea to record these events on video and put them on the web, or even Youtube, then let people know where to find them.
Do you have any tips on writing effective press statements, or the like?
1.  Greg Luft
 I would add to Anne's comments that you should have a strong angle in the lead that attracts attention. News organizations get many press releases each day, so it helps to be catchy, use active verbs and present the reason to care right up front.
2.  anne seymour
 Courtney, best advice besides waiting for the new handbooks which contains great info on writing press releases: keep them short; make sure the first graph has a good angle AND includes major info (first graph is often what is read before decision is made to read any further). Include the basic who-what-when-where-why. Format is important (double space) and make sure you provide 24/7 contact via telephone and email. In the meantime, put writing effective press releases into any search engine, and you will amazingly receive a treasure trove of sources!
A suggestion: I believe there is an interactive curriculum called "In her Shoes," directed at educating the public and media about the issues facing those who are experiencing domestic violence. I can try to locate this if anyone is interested. Our Victim Assistance Academy in Vermont has also used an exercise called "Step Forward, Step Back," which illustrates the experience of a victim trying to navigate the criminal justice system.
1.  Laura
 Windows between Worlds is an educational resource for any shelter or center dealing with domestic violence. They provide training in art for women and children. I am a liason for our center, and we had the women bring in an old shoe and they decorated and will be used for Sexual Assault Week in April. If you need further information please email me.
2.  Greg Luft
 I'm not familiar with that but would certainly be interested in more information.
3.  Kelly Starr
 The interactive training tool In Her Shoes is available through the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Go to www.wscadv.org for contact information and how to order this wonderful training tool.
What are your thoughts, opinions, tips on using Social Networking Websites for agencies & victims?
1.  Greg Luft
 I think it's a great idea for building relationships that can eventually enhance connections with media. It's also important, however, that these efforts avoid media bashing and negative postings that might turn journalists away. Reporters are very active in Web research and backgrounding, so this can work to your advantage if postings provide information that they can use.
Thanks for all your wonderful input!
1.  Greg Luft
 You're welcome. It's very educational to hear the concerns and questions.
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