Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Languages, Philosophy and Communication Studies


The overarching goal of this research was to discover the framing strategies employed within depictions of domestic abuse and/or violence through mass media outlets and what potential impact that can have on the audience, particularly in assigning meaning to the topic. Specifically, this research analyzed the choices made in how domestic abuse/violence is framed within four popular motion pictures and the subsequent messages and meanings communicated. Findings from this qualitative analysis reveal common depictions of fictional victims being young, beautiful, naïve, and fully responsible for ending the abuse. In contrast, fictional abusers are depicted as young, handsome, wealthy and/or in a position of authority, with each being provided a pathological reason for their behavior. Finally, the depicted abuse in each film followed a similar path of predictable behavior from psychological manipulation and abuse to physical harm. The research method used in this analysis is derived from rhetorical criticism which examines communication symbols within an object or subject to reveal insights that ideally will aid in understanding and improving human communication. Media have the ability to impact an audience's construction of serious social topics and issues. That makes this type of analysis vital in revealing communication strategies used by film producers as they depict partner abuse and the unavoidable, subsequent effects it has on viewers, such as in the formation of cultural beliefs and attitudes. Finally, analyzing the communication of a serious, deviant practice like domestic abuse, depicted in popular films, can assist in directing needed attention to a major social issue and provide readers the opportunity to "see" and discuss what is normally hidden and left unspoken within most cultures.

Included in

Communication Commons



Faculty Mentor

Cathy Bullock

Departmental Honors Advisor

Matthew Sanders