British awareness campaigns on domestic violence against women miss opportunity to reframe discourse - Gaps between evidence on underreporting and visual representation of domestic violence

University essay from Malmö universitet/Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS)

Abstract: Domestic violence against women (DVAW) is a global pandemic that affects approximately one in three women living in the United Kingdom. One of the biggest challenges in combating and preventing DVAW is the underreporting of incidences to law-enforcement by victims and the collective silence of bystanders who are aware of the abuse but choose to remain silent (i.e. social silence). This degree project compares evidence regarding social silence and underreporting of DVAW and how DVAW is represented in British awareness campaigns to answer the research question: What gaps exist between evidence available in respect of contributing factors to social silence and underreporting of DVAW and how key players in the space of DVAW prevention in the United Kingdom (UK) represent DVAW in public awareness campaigns aimed at addressing these issues? A literature review served to establish state of the art evidence and was followed by a Foucauldian discourse analysis of selected visual media texts from awareness raising campaigns published by British key players (i.e. NGOs and government agencies) in the area of DVAW. The analysis was conducted in three stages: 1) relevant discourse fragments were identified according to strict sampling criteria, 2) texts were analysed with a step-by-step approach, in order to identify key themes and a typical sub-sample of discourse fragments, and 3) an in-depth analysis of two typical campaign texts was conducted. The analysis revealed that a range of misalignments and gaps exist. DVAW is represented in isolation as an issue of individuals rather than society. Some of the most problematic attitudes contributing to social silence and underreporting of DVAW such as victim blaming remain largely unaddressed. Victims of DVAW are represented in isolation and the responsibility to act and stop the abuse is often placed on the them. Perpetrators of DVAW in particular, but also men in general, are largely excluded from the discourse. Instead of encouraging victims and building their confidence, a bleak picture of isolation and fear is painted in campaign texts. Some of the discourse fragments included in the analysis appear to perpetuate the very misconceptions and stereotypes they are trying to address. There is ample opportunity for British key players in the space of DVAW to take a leading role in challenging the current discourse and assume their role of influencer in the fight to break social silence and increase the reporting of DVAW.

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