Gendered Domestic Violence and Abuse in Popular Culture

Cover of Gendered Domestic Violence and Abuse in Popular Culture


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(13 chapters)


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In the contemporary media landscape, gender violence has achieved great visibility. However, the media still struggle to represent the complexity of violence perpetrated by men against women in its various forms – femicide, domestic violence (DV), intimate partner violence and violence against women. The narratives that represent such violence as an expression of individual deviance or as a crime of passion are still the most widespread both in fictional and factual products. This chapter will look at a case study by applying a multiperspective methodology of femicide and DV in an Italian town. In particular, the exemplary case study presented here was constructed by analysing newspaper articles, social networks and one television broadcast. The first part of the chapter is dedicated to the analysis of literature on femicide, DV and gender violence in relation to studies and research on media coverage, with particular reference to Italian studies. The second part presents the methodology applied in the research. The third part presents the outcomes regarding the analysis of the narrative, highlighting the frames that characterise it. Finally, the fourth part shows the conclusion that can be derived.


Media power plays a role in determining which news is told, who is listened to and how subject matter is treated, resulting in some stories being reported in depth while others remain cursory and opaque. This chapter examines how domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is reported in mainstream and social media encompassing newspapers, television and digital platforms. In the United Kingdom, newspapers have freedom to convey particular views on subjects such as DVA as, unlike radio and television broadcasting, they are not required to be impartial (Reeves, 2015).

The gendered way DVA is represented in the UK media has been a long-standing concern. Previous research into newspaper representations of DVA, including our own (Lloyd & Ramon, 2017), found evidence of victim blaming and sexualising violence against women. This current study assesses whether there is continuity with earlier research regarding how victims of DVA, predominantly women, are portrayed as provoking their own abuse and, in cases of femicide, their characters denigrated by some in the media with impunity (Soothill & Walby, 1991). The chapter examines how certain narratives on DVA are constructed and privileged in sections of the media while others are marginalised or silenced. With the rise in digital media, the chapter analyses the changing patterns of news media consumption in the UK and how social media users are responding to DVA cases reported in the news. Through discourse analysis of language and images, the potential messages projected to media consumers are considered, together with consumer dialogue and interaction articulated via online and social media platforms.


In this chapter I employ a hybrid critical framework that draws on feminist media studies, feminist critiques of post-feminism, theories of intersectionality, and genre theory to consider a range of domestic violence stories on screen. The chapter begins with a summary of prototypical patterns of narrative and character in contemporary Hollywood films about abuse and subsequently explores two recent media representations that, while conforming to certain of these patterns, also introduce alternative perspectives: the 2017/2019 Home Box Office miniseries Big Little Lies and French director Xavier Legrand's 2018 film Custody (Jusqu’à la garde). I argue that both of these media texts draw on familiar genres that engage audiences not simply to generate sympathy for the abused woman-turned-heroine, but to challenge persistent myths about domestic violence such as that abusers are monsters who never show love towards their partners; that abused women are weak, passive, and the victims of their own bad judgment; that the effects and repercussions of abuse end with the departure of the abuser; that, ultimately, the problem of abuse must be “solved” by the individual; that the “solution” is as simple as leaving; and that there is little as a community or a society that we can do. I conclude that, in different ways and to different degrees, each of these media texts succeeds in making small but significant interventions into the predictable formulas of mainstream Hollywood domestic violence films through narratives that foreground the complexities, contradictions, and dilemmas of abuse.


This chapter focuses on the value of TED Lectures on the issue of domestic violence and abuse (DVA). It outlines a generic framework with which to understand and analyse the impact of TED Lectures on a theme as complex as DVA is, in the context of popular Western culture. It does so by looking in details at the Ted Lecture of Leslie Morgan Steiner from 2012, which aims to answer the question ‘Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave: Crazy Love’ through her own personal experience.

In the attempt to understand the impact of this TED Lecture we look at the literature on TED Lectures, the unique aspects of DVA, who is the presenter, the impact and its components, the active viewers who sent written comments on the Ted Lectures, the technical effect, the comparison with two other Ted Lectures on DVA, ending by identifying gaps in the analysis provided by the three Ted Lectures.

Presenters share with the viewers their personal experience, as well as their experience as activists in organisations and programmes set out to change the status quo in the field of DVA.

The lectures impact through layers of emotional and intellectual facets, which speak to the individuals viewing them through the lens of their own emotional and intellectual experiences of DVA on the one hand, while on the other hand being also influenced by the mode of presentation and the presenter her/himself.


In this chapter, the authors focus on a range of Australian news articles selected for their relevance to key themes in the area of child abuse and examine two high profile cases of child abuse deaths that were extensively reported on by the media and led to system reform. Challenges for media reporting on child abuse in Australia including a changing media landscape, lack of available child abuse data and lack of publicly available serious case reviews are discussed. The authors argue that there is a need for attention to be paid to children's resistance and agency in the context of violence and abuse to counter the objectification of children and uphold their rights. Following Finkelhor (2008), the authors argue that media reporting on child abuse in Australia reflects a general approach to child abuse that is fragmented, with different types of abuse viewed as separate from one another, and call for a more integrated understanding of child abuse. The authors highlight the complexity of media responses to child abuse in Australia, noting that while the social problem of child abuse can be misrepresented by the media, media reporting has also triggered significant systemic reform and advocated for children in cases where other systems failed them.


Issues and developments that have occurred in relation to elder abuse, specifically concerning the domestic setting, will be briefly explored. Over the last 15 years, there has been increasing global recognition of abuse and neglect of older people who might be at risk of such forms of harm, as a social problem needing attention. The role of the media and media representations of elder abuse are clearly of relevance here and are the main focus of this chapter.

Around 500,000 older people are believed to be abused at any one time in the United Kingdom, with most victims of elder abuse being older women with a chronic illness or disability, according to statistics provided by the government information service (NHS Digital, 2019). Most of the abuse recorded relates to domestic settings within communities.

Gender-based violence and abuse amongst older women may be overlooked by health and social care providers. For older women, their gender seems to be forgotten or becomes hidden. Media representation of abuse against older people, particularly older women, does not assist this situation.

Against the backdrop of the global ageing population, it is fundamental that the particular experiences, needs and rights of older people are adequately understood, and that health and care professionals respond appropriately. This chapter explores these issues, in particular the role of the digital media and representations of elder abuse in familial settings and its impact on victims, potential victims, perpetrators, health and social care service providers and the general public.


Introduction: Media representation of intimate partner violence (IPV) can influence public opinion and understanding of the phenomena and guide health policies. The current review has the aim to explore and discuss international, scientific literature focused on the portrayal of IPV in written forms of news media.

Method: Searching through EBSCO and PubMed, 2,435 studies were found and 41 were included in the current review.

Results: Bias in the portrayal of IPV was found within the studies included. While IPV-related news was mainly focused on male-perpetrated violence within heterosexual couples, little attention was paid to same-sex intimate partner violence (SSIPV). Newsworthy stories dominate IPV reporting within news media and a sensationalistic style was often employed. Furthermore, contextual information was often limited and the adoption of a thematic frame was rare, while news media were found to commonly employ an episodic frame. Official sources and family, friends and neighbours were the most quoted sources in news articles, while IPV experts were rarely drawn on for information. Regarding media representation of perpetrators, mainly regarding male abusers, news articles reported several reasons behind the violence with the consequence to justify and exonerate them from their responsibilities. Female perpetrators were found to be depicted, in some cases, as ‘mad’ or ‘bad’ people. Finally, victim-blaming content emerged within many of the articles included.

Conclusion: Bias in the media representation of IPV emerged in the current review, which needs to be addressed to positively influence public opinion and to promote an adequate understanding of the phenomena.


In May 2012, nine men from the Rochdale area of Manchester were found guilty of sexually exploiting a number of underage girls. Reporting on the trial, the media focussed on the fact that eight of the nine men were of Pakistani origin, while the girls were all white. It also framed similar cases in Preston, Rotherham, Derby, Shropshire, Oxford, Telford and Middlesbrough as ethnically motivated, thus creating a moral panic centred on South Asian grooming gangs preying on white girls. Despite the lack of evidence that the abuse perpetrated by some Asian men is distinct from male violence against women generally, the media focus on the grooming gang cases has constructed a narrative in which South Asian men pose a unique sexual threat to white girls. This process of ‘othering’ South Asian men in terms of abusive behaviour masks the fact that in the United Kingdom, the majority of sexual and physical abuse is perpetrated by white men; it simultaneously marginalises the sexual and domestic violence experienced by black and minority ethnic women. Indeed, the sexual abuse of South Asian women and girls is invisibilised within this binary discourse, despite growing concerns and evidence that the men who groomed the young girls in the aforementioned cases had also perpetrated domestic and sexual violence in their homes against their wives/partners. Through discourse analysis of newspaper coverage of these cases for the period 2012‒2018, this paper examines the British media's portrayal of South Asian men – particularly Pakistani men – in relation to child-grooming offences and explores the conditions under which ‘South Asian men’ have been constructed as ‘folk devils’. It also highlights the comparatively limited newspaper coverage of the abuse experiences and perspectives of Asian women and girls from the same communities to emphasise that violence against women and girls remains an ongoing problem across the nation.


The international #metoo campaigns are influenced by local social norms, institutional responses to gender-based sexual violence, and neo-patriarchy. Therefore, some characteristics are highly locally specific. The chapter describes the local characteristics of the #jaztudi campaign in Slovenia by analysing women's testimonies, and media and social reactions. The #jaztudi started in 2018 initiated by four women public intellectuals one of whom is the author of this chapter. The chapter takes as its starting point an overview of gender-based inequalities that women in post-socialist Slovenia are facing. Women's testimonies reveal that sexual violence happens at home, in educational, healthcare, religious, public and private institutions as well as at work and in leisure time, and has great impact on the women's lives. In a short period of time, by compiling and publishing the testimonies, the #jaztudi campaign created a snowball effect and contributed to the launching of new on-line and media-supported discussions about sexual violence, notably by Catholic priests, and the painful and demeaning treatment that women encounter in different health institutions. The campaign facilitated the emergence of alliances among new cases of sexual violence in a relatively short period of time, and contributed to some degree to awareness raising. The campaign encouraged the emergence of a new sensitivity much needed in order to reach new political agreements. Taking into account that sexual violence is historically a patriarchal strategy used to control women, it is urgent to implement the ‘yes means yes’ model of consent of the Istanbul convention in Slovenia, and to create the political and social conditions in which sexual harassment and violence against women are unacceptable.


Pages 239-244
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Cover of Gendered Domestic Violence and Abuse in Popular Culture
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Emerald Studies in Popular Culture and Gender
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Emerald Publishing Limited