Toxic journalism triggered Turner’s PTSD

Journalism Reporting and Writing in class exercise week 4

Image: Herald Sun

Journalists amplified Tina Turner’s post-traumatic stress disorder with ongoing questions about her abusive ex-husband.

A new autobiographical documentary by HBO reveals the iconic performer suffered PTSD because of violent abuse from ex-husband Ike Turner.

A series of triggering questions from journalists are shown in the documentary.

The rape surviving rock legend is asked questions including: “When you were married to Ike, what was the absolutely worst moment?” and “What do you think attracts women to bad men?”

Ms Turner has been celebrated for opening a dialogue on domestic violence and marital sexual abuse with her 1986 memoir I, Tina and the film adaptation What’s Love got to do with it?

The HBO documentary, Tina, is the first time Ms Turner has discussed the psychological consequences of speaking out and the impact of journalism on the subject, for her, over time.

Ms Turner, 81, says she decided to talk about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband and former co-star to try and put the trauma of her past abuse behind her.

Ms Turner says she wasn’t interested in telling what she considered “the ridiculously embarrassing story of my life”, but it felt like a way to “get the journalists off my back”.

Ms Turner’s husband, Erwin Bach says the singer still has “not pleasant” nightmares and can be triggered over her past abuse.

“When you’ve talked to journalists over and over for forty years, these are things that come back to her when she opens that box,” said Mr Bach.

Journalists have faced increased scrutiny of their reporting of domestic violence and sexual abuse as a result of the “Me Too” movement.

2021 Australian of the year Grace Tame criticised local journalists for exploitative practices at a recent address to the National Press Club.

Ms Tame told the press corp they were sensationalising and commodifying victims’ stories by “repeatedly expecting people to relive their trauma on your terms”.

Industry experts within the journalism profession have been updating standards and practices for how to interact with victims of trauma while reporting on their experiences.

Our Watch, an Australian organisation for the prevention of violence against women and children, has called on journalists to ensure their coverage upholds the rights of survivors and their families.

Our Watch ambassador Rebecca Poulson says there needs to be more accountability in the media around the coverage of perpetrators.

“The victim blaming has become more sophisticated and subtle in media now.”

“We’ll still say things like ‘she caused the broken heart so that’s why he attacked her.’”

In the documentary Tina, Ms Turner is shown during an interview at the height of her fame in the 1990’s having an anxiety attack when asked about Ike Turner.

In a later interview in 2019, Ms Turner said it remained painful to talk about her abusive past, but at a certain stage in her life “forgiveness takes over”.

The documentary Tina and the Broadway musical of the same name are part of Ms Turner’s final artistic effort before she permanently withdraws from public life.