Social representation of violence against women in the media: a South African study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The South African mass media has been recognised as playing an important role in influencing individual understandings of social issues, including domestic violence against women. However, few research studies have exclusively investigated the way in which messages concerning domestic violence against women have come to emerge within the South African media. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore social representations of domestic violence evident in the Cape Argus, Cape Times, and Daily Voice. Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six step thematic analysis was used to identify social representations of domestic violence evident in 25 articles that reported on men’s perpetration of violence against women. The analysis suggested that the media in the Western Cape largely promoted distorted social representations of domestic violence in South Africa. For example, domestic violence was constructed as a problem of an unjust justice system, and as an uncontrollable outburst ‘provoked’ by women partners. As a result, responsibility assigned to male perpetrators for their act(s) of violence were lessened, and the possible contribution of wider-societal influences and other sectors of society undermined. Recommendations in response to the findings of the study and for future South African domestic violence research in the context of media representations are discussed.

Includes bibliographical references.