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A field guide

Centering Survivor Stories

Centering the perspectives of sexual violence and abuse survivors in documentary films.

Centering Survivor Stories is a robust summary of a collaborative four-part workshop series focused on better working practices with survivors of sexual violence and abuse in documentary film. It highlights the discussed best practices, strategies, and lessons that you need to know as a documentarian.

Learn more

Centering Survivor Stories is a collaboration between ART WORKS Projects, Re-Present Media, and the Video Consortium, and focuses on informed consent, trauma-informed, and community-centered practices to guide working with survivors.

Why this work matters

Global attention on unethical media practices has intensified in recent years, leading to greater scrutiny of harms such as stigma and retaliation that occur to sources and participants. Media makers are striving towards greater accountability through a framework where working with survivors is based on informed consent and other trauma-informed, survivor- and community-centered practices. These principles are the basis for guidelines such as those set forth in the Murad Code applied to documenting sexual violence in conflict and the Dart Center Europe’s guidelines for Reporting on Sexual Violence in Conflict. However, these are not legally enforceable rules. Beyond ethics, participants in the media need legal protections. We encourage filmmakers to integrate informed consent into their filmmaking practices, while ultimately working towards societal and legal accountability. The concept of informed consent as a legal requirement is rooted in ethical principles to ”do no harm” and safeguarding the rights of participants in medical research, starting with the Nuremberg Code of 1947 which has been codified in U.S. laws, making informed consent a legal requirement for doctors, lawyers and other professionals working with human beings.

—Excerpt from "Advancing a Global Human Rights Approach to Media Accountability" by Sherizaan Minwalla, Founder of Taboo LLC. Read more here.

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Centering Survivor Stories is an ongoing project, and we welcome you to sign up to receive the latest news on this project, including industry presentations and a new Field Guide and Toolkit in development on working with trauma survivors.

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Let us know how you have used the document, and share your feedback with us!

Other Resources

Murad Code

A global code of conduct for gathering and using information about systemic and conflict-related sexual violence. The Murad Code project also contains practical guidance to the code, survivors’ charter or survivors’ perspectives documents, and “survivor’s guide,” a toolkit for survivors that will assist them to understand better and demand respect and protection for their rights during documentation processes.

Silence and Omissions: A Media Guide for Covering Gender-Based Violence

A comprehensive guide for journalists and filmmakers for covering gender-based violence created by the Journalism Initiative on Gender-Based Violence at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.

Dart Centre Guidelines for Reporting on Sexual Violence in Conflict

The Dart Centre Europe created guidelines for how to report on sexual violence, specifically in conflict zones.

Dealing with Trauma and Survivors of Trauma

Editorial guidance and policy from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which is survivor-centered, also includes their guidance notes on reporting domestic violence and terrorism.

The Hague Principles on Sexual Violence

The principles include general guidance on what makes violence “sexual,” especially to survivors, the International Criminal Law Guidelines on Sexual Violence, and the Key Principles for Policy Makers on Sexual Violence—created by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.