Mediated Domestic Violence: Is the New Visibility Short Lived?
The media in the United States, especially television, re-discovers the severity of violence against women when a highly visible image or story occurs. The latest incident, involving singers Chris Brown and Rihanna, has been extensively covered on local, national, and cable news, and talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil. However, as academic writers on the subject have noted, the media continually “rediscover” this problem in response to a specific incident that is either particularly horrific (such as the case of Laci Peterson) or involves a celebrity.
A Public Service Announcement by the group dosomething.org reenacting the alleged incident between the musicians is the latest facet of the story to gain media attention. Is it too graphic? Does it violate the legal rights of the accused, who is innocent until proven guilty? Will it help young people realize the severity of the problem? While these questions are important, larger questions go unasked. The media, which tends to focus on specifics, often encourages victim-blaming by over-examining the culpability of the victim. What did she do to provoke this?, they ask. Since the media is where issues are routinely debated in the public sphere, a greater focus on structural causes of domestic violence is necessary to truly solve the problem.