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Ornament to reality

"Family tragedy" is the word Equality and Discrimination Ombud, Beate Gangås, believes to trivialize murder.


[murder] 1st Easter Day it smells. Again. A 32-year-old man kills his wife, his three-year-old child and himself.

- Everything indicates that this is a family tragedy, says police superintendent Olav Brubakk in Asker and Bærum police district to NTB. Dagsrevyen also used the word «family tragedy».

On Tuesday, April 18, there is talk of a "personal tragedy" when mother and daughter are found dead in Elverum.

Professor of psychiatry at Haukeland Hospital, Gustav Wik, believes it is dangerous to use the word family tragedy, both in relation to the public's perception of the case – and the work of the police.

- Tragedies are diffuse and have a lower status in the police investigation. There are so many tragedies, like accidents and divorces, but when someone is killed, it is first and foremost murder. And murders must be properly investigated. I call it murder because it is very often planned actions, says Wik, who before Christmas published the book Murder-suicide in close relationships.

Equality and discrimination officer Beate Gangås has previously worked for the police. She also strongly warns against the use of the term "tragedy" if there is murder in question.

- Family tragedy is a word that obscures the actual conditions. With such vocabulary, the media and the police help to embellish reality. Family tragedy becomes something private that the public sector should not interfere in or take responsibility for. Violence is never a private matter, but a serious societal problem, says Gangås.

She emphasizes that a murder is a murder either on an open street or behind a closed bedroom door.

- We must not reduce a serious crime such as murder to a sad family fate, Gangås says.

Both Wik and Gangås believe awareness of the vocabulary is sharpened by a public discussion.

- My experience from the police is that the agency has become aware of the wording. Violence against women is no longer called domestic violence. This case shows that journalists need to be more aware of their word choices. It is important that we dare to highlight the seriousness and put it into words, Gangås believes.

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