Crime Victims and Public Awareness
Impact on Your Organization
Educating the Media
Impact of Coverage Can Affect Victims
Types of News Stories
Major Concerns of Coverage
Impact On Victims of Specific Crimes
Cultural Competency
Victim Privacy v. Media
The Role of Victim Service Providers
Victim Referrals to the Media
Tips for Crime Victims and Survivors

Link to A Guide for Journalists Who Report on Crime and Crime Victims
Link to Crime Victim Outreach Tip Sheets
Victim Media Advocacy:
How to Facilitate Sensitive and Respectful Treatment of Crime Victims

13. Tips for Crime Victims and Survivors

a. Helping Victims Prepare
i. Preparation
ii. Explaining Editing To Victims
b. Tips for Media Interviews
c. During the Interview
d. Follow-Up

Tips for Crime Victims and Survivors18 18. Anne Seymour and Linda Lowrance, 1990, Crime Victims and the Media, Washington, DC: National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly known as National Victim Center), (adapted in part with permission).
Guidelines for Media Interviews

These guidelines can help victims who choose to speak to the media think about and plan for their interactions with the news media.

1. PLAN INTERVIEWS: You should plan for media interviews.

The most effective media interviews are those that are carefully considered in advance, with attention paid to the key points that victims want to make. Advocates can help victims think about and outline what they want to say in order of priority to ensure that their key messages are conveyed concisely and to the point. When possible, advocates can role play with victims so that they understand the process and gain experience in fielding questions.

2. DEMAND RESPECT: You should expect to be treated with respect by the news media.

While media interviews can be stressful to victims, they should always be conducted in a manner that is courteous and respectful. Victims and advocates should discuss strategies about how to respond if they are not. It may make sense to have a prearranged signal that victims can use to alert the advocate to end the interview if certain boundaries are crossed.

Woman holding halkboard with the word "NO" written on it (Staged with a Professional Model).

3. SAYING NO: You do not have to speak to the media and can say “no” to requests for interviews, even if you have previously granted interviews.

Victims should never feel required to speak about their victimization, and advocates can explain to journalists how important it is for victims to regain control over their lives in the aftermath of crime. Victims should never feel pressured to grant an interview. Journalists should also be told that there may be specific times—such as during a trial, or when they are feeling trauma or stress—when victims can’t speak to the media. Advocates should advise victims that it is completely up to them to decide if and when they wish to speak to the media and they should not allow themselves to be pressed into an interview.

4. CHOOSE WHEN AND WHERE: You can select the date, time, and location for a media interview.

Victims can take charge of the process by granting interviews that fit within their schedules and their lives. However, advocates should explain that the media often work on tight deadlines, so it’s a good idea to try and meet their scheduling needs to the degree possible.

5. OPTING FOR A SPOKESPERSON: You can select a spokesperson or advocate of your choice to speak on your behalf to the media.

Some victims choose to have a family member, friend, or victim service provider represent them with the media, either as their principal spokesperson or in cases where it is not possible to conduct an interview. Advocates can advise victims to choose somebody they trust and to establish clear guidelines for representation (such as key points they want to make and issues that they consider “off limits” for interviews).

Multilple microphones positioned as if waiting for a speaker to arrive.

6. OPTING FOR A SUPPORT PERSON: You can ask to have a support person present with you during any interview.

Advocates should advise victims and journalists that the more comfortable they are in an interview setting, the better the interview will be. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a family member, friend, or victim service provider with them to provide moral support and comfort.

7. RELEASING WRITTEN STATEMENTS: You can release a written or oral statement through a spokesperson instead of an interview.

The benefits of a written or oral statement are that the media get at least part of the information they are seeking, the victim’s feelings and opinions are clearly conveyed, and there is no margin of error for inaccuracies.

8. ONE AT A TIME: You can avoid a stressful atmosphere by speaking to only one reporter at a time.

For some victims, a press conference can be overwhelming. Victim service providers can help victims schedule individual interviews at the time and location of their choosing.

Sign in the middle of a field saying "OFF LIMITS"

9. ESTABLISH GROUND RULES: You can establish “ground rules” or boundaries for all media interviews.

Victim service providers can help victims consider “ground rules” that can facilitate a more effective interview and avoid discussing issues that are potentially traumatic. Examples include the victim’s desire for a support person to be present; topics that are “off limits;” any limitations on visual depictions of the victim’s face or visual image; and an agreement to take breaks during the interview or end it if needed.

10. DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER: You can refrain from answering any question that makes you uncomfortable.

Advocates should clearly advise victims that they do not need to answer a question just because it is asked. If a question appears to be insensitive or makes a victim uncomfortable, the victim (or his/her support person) can simply state that he or she is unwilling to answer or ask that the question be rephrased.

11. ENDING INTERVIEW: You can end an interview at any time.

Advocates should remind victims that participating in a media interview is their choice. If an interview becomes too stressful, it is the victim’s choice to end it.

12. TAPE IT YOURSELF: You can audiotape or videotape all interviews to ensure the accuracy of what you say.

 Advocates can provide victims with taping equipment to document their interviews.

13. ASK WHAT ITS ABOUT: You can ask in advance what the story will be about.

If victims have an idea about the scope of the story, they can better prepare for an interview. Most reporters will give victims or their advocates a general idea of what the story is about. However, victims need to know that editors almost always have the last say about what the story will ultimately say.

14. ASK FOR A SPECIFIC REPORTER: You can request a specific reporter.

In the course of a criminal investigation and trial, victims may identify a reporter with whom they are comfortable and, to the contrary, reporters with whom they are uncomfortable. They may also ask the advocate’s advice about which reporter to talk to. Choosing a specific reporter is another element that can help victims regain control following a crime.

15. REFUSING SPECIFIC REPORTERS: You can refuse an interview with a specific reporter, even if you have granted interviews to other reporters.

Victims should refuse an interview with a reporter who has been insensitive or has covered their case inaccurately.

Graphic representation of black silhouette of two children holding hands with the universal "NO" sign on top.

16. EXCLUDE CHILDREN: You can and should exclude young children from interviews.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to the traumatic effects of a crime. They rely on adults for support and decision-making, and to protect them from further harm. Advocates can advise the parents and guardians of children to avoid exposing them to the public eye, especially in times of crisis. Parents and guardians can speak on behalf of their children while still protecting their identity. (See “Child Victims.”)

17. DEMAND CORRECTIONS: You can demand a correction when inaccurate information is reported.

If victims feel that information is not accurate or that they were misquoted or taken out of context, it’s important to raise these concerns with reporters and their editors. Mistakes are usually unintentional and can be corrected.

Black silhouette of man at a podium. (Staged with a professional model). 18. REFUSING PHOTOS: You can conduct a television interview using a silhouette or a newspaper interview without having your photograph taken.

Advocates can advise victims that their right to privacy should not preclude them from granting interviews, since modern technology can protect their privacy without preventing them from speaking to the media.

19. TELLING YOUR SIDE: You can completely give your side of the story related to your victimization.

Advocates can advise victims about the many sources that are available to reporters who are covering their cases and let them know that their insights and perspective are important.

20. FILING A COMPLAINT: You can file a formal complaint against a journalist.

You may first want to talk with the reporter about your complaint. If you do not get satisfaction, you can send a formal complaint to their editors or news directors, as well as publishers and owners.

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a. HELPING VICTIMS PREPARE: Helping Victims Prepare for Media Interviews

The Role of the Victim Service Provider19 19. Ibid., 15.

i. Preparation

The most important part of preparation is establishing the victim’s goals for the interview. What does the victim want to say? Are there specific messages he or she wants to convey? Is there information already in the public that he or she wants to correct or comment on? Remember that it is difficult to convey more than a few distinct messages, so advocates can help victims hone their presentations.

Additional preparation involves sharing knowledge, answering questions, rehearsing, and preparing for logistics:

Hand holding a small voice recorder (Staged with a Professional Model).

If the victim is a survivor of a homicide victim, there are additional issues to address:

People filing past coffin during a funeral. (Staged with professional models).

Draft of a news article covered with red editor marks and notes.It’s important for victims to understand that the reporter to whom they speak is only one person among several who are responsible for editing an article or news broadcast. It is an ongoing process that begins when a story is assigned and ends only when it is published or broadcast. Editing can be done by a reporter, editor, copy editor, or news director.

Editing helps make sure that a story is accurate, clear, understandable, and objective, and that space and time constraints do not affect the quality or factual information in a story. Editing focuses on accuracy, style, spelling and grammar, and length of the article or broadcast, as well as lack of bias.

When victims understand the editing process, they can also understand how important it is to—

Magnifying glass magnifying the word "focus" in the dictionary.

b. Tips for Media Interviews

Victim service providers can offer basic tips to victims to help them prepare for media interviews. The following suggestions can be augmented with tips based on their past personal experiences and knowledge of the specific news medium or reporter involved:

Adobe PDF available of list aboveClick here for printable pdf of list above.

A one-page summary of the above, “Quick Tips for Crime Victims and Survivors: Conducting Media Interviews,” is included in the Resources section of this guide.


c. During the Interview: Supporting Victims During the Interview

The victim’s comfort level—both physical and emotional—will directly affect the actual interview. A victim who is well prepared will feel a greater sense of confidence and control.

By acknowledging that interviews may be stressful, victim service providers can help victims prepare. Explain stress-reduction techniques—such as deep breathing, physical stretching, or visual imagery—that victims can use to relax immediately prior to interviews.

The advocate can help plan for a comfortable physical environment. If the interview is conducted at the home or office of the victim, the victim can choose the place where he or she feels most comfortable talking. The advocate can arrange the physical space to avoid clutter, have a box of tissues on hand, ensure there is appropriate light and space, and provide for electrical outlets or extension cords for the media. The goal is to facilitate an interview setting that is quiet (no external noise, cell phones and pagers turned off, etc.). A glass of water should be provided for both the victim and the interviewer.

If the interview is conducted in a studio or other environment, the advocate can work with media professionals to address physical comfort needs (see above). Advocates should address, review, and discuss key interview logistics with victims such as—

Man wearing lapel microphone. (Staged with a professional model).

If the interview is conducted from a remote location, the advocate can—

Out of focus man on television set.

d. FOLLOW UP: Following Up After the Interview

Following an interview, victims may seek feedback from advocates about their interview style and the information they conveyed. Advocates should first discuss how the victim felt about the interview. It is important to be frank about any times when the victim felt particularly positive or perhaps stressed. Constructive feedback can help victims improve their interview techniques and gain confidence for the future.

Victim service providers should determine, to the degree possible, when a story will be published or aired and inform the victim. If a victim wants to document interactions with the media, the advocate can help him or her prepare a scrapbook or obtain audiotapes and videotapes of interviews.

All media contacts can be added to a centralized media database for future reference.

A thank you note with a pen resting on it.Any interactions with the media provide victims and advocates with an important opportunity to build strong, ongoing relationships. If a story is fair and accurate, a brief thank you note or e-mail to the reporter—or his/her editor or news director—recognizes the reporter’s good work. If victims or advocates are pleased with the results of a print interview, they can also write a letter-to-the-editor for publication that expresses their feelings.

If a victim feels that an article or news broadcast contains information that is inaccurate or taken out of context, the advocate can help develop a plan-of-action to express such concerns:


Quick Tips for Crime Victims and Survivors
Guidelines for Media Interviews

Adobe PDF available of list aboveClick here for printable pdf of list above.

Quick Tips for Victims and Survivors:
Conducting Media Interviews

Adobe PDF available of list aboveClick here for printable pdf of list above.

18. Anne Seymour and Linda Lowrance, 1990, Crime Victims and the Media, Washington, DC: National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly known as National Victim Center), (adapted in part).

19. Ibid., 15.

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