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date: 26 February 2021

Media Representations of Domestic Violencelocked

  • Meda Chesney-LindMeda Chesney-LindDepartment of Women's Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
  •  and Nicholas ChagnonNicholas ChagnonDepartment of Sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa


Though it is generally given less attention than sexual assault, domestic violence is quite often depicted in corporate media products, including news broadcasts, television shows, and films. Mediated depictions of domestic violence share many of the same problems as those of sexual assault. In particular, the media tends to imply that women are somehow culpable when they are being beaten, even murdered, by their partners. News on domestic violence is often reported in a routine manner that focuses on minutiae instead of context, informing audiences minimally about the nature, extent, and causes of domestic violence. Though it is encouraging that over the past several decades the media has begun to acknowledge that domestic violence is a serious problem, this recognition is challenged by antifeminist claims-making in the media. Such challenges generally cite contested social science research as proof that feminist research on domestic violence is biased and inaccurate. Furthermore, media representations of domestic violence often supply racializing and class-biased discourses about abusers and their victims that frame domestic violence as largely the product of marginalized classes, rather a problem that affects the various strata of society. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, media coverage of the violence against women abroad, particularly in Islamic nations, has provided more racializing discourse, which juxtaposes “progressive” Western cultures with “backward” Eastern ones. On the domestic front, news focusing on indigenous communities replicates some of the racism inherent in the orientalist gaze applied to domestic violence abroad. Generally, the media do a poor job of cultivating a sophisticated understanding of domestic violence among the public. Thus, many researchers argue such media representations constitute a hegemonic patriarchal ideology, which obfuscates the issue of domestic violence, as well as the underlying social relations that create the phenomenon.

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