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Symposium and Fund for Journalism on Domestic Violence

Program Description: 

A woman protests against domestic violence as she joins other women's rights advocates in an International Women's Day march in downtown Los Angeles, California on March 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

Domestic violence affects tens of millions of Americans each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicate that about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, with over 43 million women and 38 million men reporting psychological aggression by an intimate partner sometime in the past.  In California, more than half of families have been touched by domestic violence, according to a 2017 study, yet for the most part, the issue is rarely discussed in public policy circles or reported on by journalists. Media outlets mostly treat incidents as "cops" items, if they cover them at all, as opposed to treating domestic violence as a public health problem. 

The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism hosted a two-day virtual Symposium on Domestic Violence on Zoom from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on consecutive Fridays, April 16 and April 23, followed by the launch of a Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund.  We talked about the role of the "twin pandemics" of COVID-19 and systemic racism on domestic violence and lasting after effects. Attendees heard from leading journalists who shared a vision for trauma-informed reporting on domestic violence. 
Program Highlights Included:

Essential Insights for Reporting on Domestic Violence, with award-winning journalist and author Rachel Louise Snyder, author of "No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us," in conversation with noted domestic violence reporter Melissa Jeltsen 

Trauma-informed Storytelling with investigative reporter Brandon Stahl, a 2019 Pulitzer Prize co-finalist for the series, “Denied Justice,” which revealed widespread criminal justice failures in Minnesota in response to sexual assault reports and New York-based freelance reporter Andrea González-Ramírez, who recently reported on an epidemic of domestic violence in Puerto Rico. Conversation moderated by freelance reporter Natasha Senjanovic, who is currently producing the Pulitzer Center-backed project “Surging in Silence,” examining the effects of the pandemic on domestic and sexual violence
Diverse Communities and Domestic Violence with Karma Cottman, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Ujima Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community; Pablo Espinoza, co-executive director of San Francisco-based Community United Against Violence and Grace Huang, director of policy at the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence
Looking for Remedies Outside the Criminal Justice System with Mimi Kim, executive director and founder of  Creative Interventions and associate professor of social work at California State University, Long Beach, with Leigh Goodmark, JD, Marjorie Cook Professor of Law at the University of Maryland and founder of the law school’s Gender Violence Clinic
How Domestic Violence Trauma Affects Our Brains, Memory and Long-term Health with Karestan C. Koenen, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health. and Eve Valera, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard University School of Medicine
How to Tell Data-informed Stories on Domestic Violence despite Messy Data with California-based multimedia journalist Salma Loum, creator of The SAFE Project, an interactive data visualization that helps sexual assault survivors and journalists understand the roadblocks of a sexual assault survivor must get around to report his or her assault, and MaryJo Webster, data editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a Pulitzer Prize co-finalist for the series, “Denied Justice."

How to Access Transcripts of Symposium Sessions

Write Andrew Perez at to request transcripts of the sessions. 

How to Apply for the Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund

The Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund welcomes applications for reporting grants from professional journalists, including freelancers, from print, broadcast and online media outlets. Ethnic media journalists are strongly encouraged to apply. In addition, two to three grants will be awarded to community storytelling projects proposed by non-journalists. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students are ineligible.

Attendance at all sessions of the two-day symposium is required to apply, as is completion of the evaluations for both days.. 

Most grantees will receive a $2,000 reporting stipend to defray costs associated with substantive investigative or explanatory reporting projects that focus on the topics above. Larger grants of $2,500 to $10,000 will be awarded instead for exceptionally ambitious reporting proposals, with documented additional costs, including those that involve newsroomwide, multi-newsroom collaborations (such as print and broadcast partners), mainstream-ethnic media collaborations or news outlet/community or youth storyteller projects. We are also interested in receiving applications from California journalists for projects that involve partnering with community-based organizations and their clients in first-person storytelling. Those stories must involve participants in California. Click here for more details about what we're looking for in these proposals for community storytelling partnerships.

Journalists selected as Domestic Violence Impact Fund Grantees will receive five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist as they usher their reporting projects to publication or broadcast. They will also be offered the opportunity to apply for community engagement mentoring and a $1,000-$2,000 engagement grant as well. 

From journalists in California and from journalists elsewhere proposing a California-focused project for a national outlet: We seek project proposals for reporting that explores root causes of and structural contributors to domestic violence. We welcome proposals for investigative and explanatory reporting on themes including: 
  • The effects of the pandemic on domestic violence
  • Systemic racism as a contributor
  • The role of intergenerational trauma
  • The effects on health and mental health
  • Economic and financial repercussions
  • Domestic violence over the life course, from the growing problem among teens to the surprising prevalence among the elderly
  • The intersection with child abuse
  • Effects on children witnessing domestic violence
  • The role of domestic violence in causing homelessness
  • The heavy toll on transgender intimate partners
  • Racial disparities in responses from the criminal justice and health care systems
  • Policy questions around resources for crisis intervention vs. prevention and early intervention
  • The role of firearms
  • The debate about batterer intervention programs
  • Cyber abuse
  • Promising prevention strategies
  • Promising treatment strategies for abusers
  • And emerging community responses

For applicants from outside of California, the Center invites proposals for journalistic explorations of the short- and long-term intergenerational effects of domestic violence on families and children. Explorations could include the impacts of witnessing violence inflicted on a parent by the other parent or a partner; what happens to a child's physiology when exposed to repeated violence; the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse; problematic and model responses by public agencies (police and child protective services) to children living in a home with domestic violence; treatment models that enable children to heal and avoid becoming abusers or victims as adults; and emerging community and family-based interventions and their impacts. (California reporters can also apply with proposals on these themes as well as the broader topics listed above.)

Applications for the Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund are Due by May 7.

Journalists who are applying for grants should have a minimum of three years of professional experience.  Freelancers are welcome to apply, but need to have a confirmed assignment and should earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Before applying for a grant, we strongly encourage you to talk with us about your idea for a reporting project. Please contact Martha Shirk at to arrange a conversation about a purely journalistic project. Contact Danielle Fox at drf_328 to arrange a conversation about a proposal for a community storyteller project (California journalists only).  

Click here for more details about what's required in an application and a link to the online application.

This initiative is made possible by the generous support of the Blue Shield of California Foundation. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is providing support for grants to journalists from outside of California.


Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States?  Apply now for one of our positions. 

The best journalism these days wraps compelling narratives around scrupulous data analysis. Apply now for our 2021 Data Fellowship to learn the skills necessary to use big data to inform your reporting on health and social welfare issues. Learn more in this webinar on Aug. 3.


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