From the early years of domestic violence activism, Russian activists were remarkably successful at getting coverage in newspapers relative to their organizational strength. In the mid 1990s, crisis centers secured sympathetic coverage in English-language Moscow – and St. Petersburg-based newspapers, as well as in a variety of popular Russian newspapers.30 Coverage then seems to have increased over time (Lukshevskii 2003). Between 1995 and 2005, there were at least 1,600 articles referencing these various terms for domestic violence in national and regional newspapers and newswires (see appendix 2 for method). Somewhat reflecting the movement’s terminology, the literal translation of “domestic vio-
The Incidence of Various Terms for Domestic Violence in Izvestiia, 1995—2005
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lence” was the second most popular way of referring to domestic violence, following “violence in the family,” the term the movement began to use more recently. Whereas in 1995 there were only two references to domestic violence using terms acceptable to the women’s crisis center movement (rather than euphemisms, such as “family scandals”) in the high-circulation national newspaper Izvestiia, there were twenty in 2004 (see table 5.2). In the aftermath of the foreign-funded campaigns, as argued by two leading Moscow-based journalists, journalists are now much more educated about domestic violence, and mass media as a whole are now actively engaged in discussing the problem as well as helping to prevent it (N. I. Azhgikhina and S. R. Svistunova in Rimasheevskaia 2005).
One follow-up survey documents this increase in domestic violence coverage in newspapers as well as in other media (Zabelina et al. 2007). Respondents in 2006 were more much likely to assess that newspapers, radio, and television “often” report on “domestic violence by men against women” than five years earlier (83—34). Some 23 percent of men and 49 percent of women in 2006, for example, thought this was the case on the radio and on television respectively, compared to 5 percent and 24 percent in 2001. Regarding the most powerful medium in Russia, only 5 percent of respondents in 2006 thought that television programs never referred to domestic violence. These survey results, although indirect in their measure of media coverage, are more meaningful because they suggest that people are becoming more conscious about media reporting of domestic violence.
It is not just that there are stories on domestic violence, but that people recognize and recall these stories.
These shifts in public awareness did not come easily and have not been complete. Again and again, reporters would call the crisis centers to cover the issues of domestic violence and the activists would spend hours talking to them to try to disabuse the reporters of their assumptions about domestic violence. Even into the new century, news coverage would often repeat the myths, especially the idea that women need to be held accountable for domestic violence because they “provoke” it in men. Even as many articles covered domestic violence, most “certified” rather than “analyzed” the problem, reporting the incidence but not explaining it as a violation of women’s rights (Zabelina 2002, 69).31 However, increasing references to the problem and the use of new terminology—which Russian researchers attributed to the existence of strong women’s organizations (Lukshevskii 2003)—contrasts with the previous taboo against even raising the issue in public.