Reflections on the Visual of Anti-violence Discourse in Europe

The landscape of visual culture is a harbinger of normalised symbolic violence against women, and discourse shapes our understanding of the world and how we do things. Considering the high prevalences (FRA Survey 2014) there is an urgent need for reflection on the actual practices and the messages behind.

The WHO Multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women (2005) indicated that 15–71% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Now, the FRA’s survey (2014) shows that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse in all EU Member States, 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. Moreover, 67% of women did not report the most serious incident of partner violence to the police or any other organisation.  This also means that until now the EU Member States have failed to create a climate which encourages women to speak out about this human rights violation and we also can conclude an urgency for social change and awareness raising among all members of the society.

Shaping the visual of gender-based violence – contributions by the women’s anti-violence movement

The women’s anti-violence movements*) are crucial players providing essential and indispensable contributions to violence prevention, hence anticipate in shaping the (audiovisual) discourse on the very subject. As a matter of fact,  there exists a  considerable research gap concerning the issue of representation and discourse comprising the visual landscape as such, as well as the respective contributions by the women’s anti-violence movement, although the visual is a key for the cultural construction of social life (Rose 2001). As there is an urgent need for reflection on the actual practices and the messages behind, I analysed  the (audio)visual material of anti-violence against women initiatives in Austria and Spain, as well as on the European level in a five-years period from 2007 to 2011 (Wolf 2013a). The (audio)visual discourse to raise awareness and stop gender-based violence shows, that awareness raising initiatives to a significant extent focus on the individual dimension of the societal problem, reproducing depiction of isolated victims without further contexts. Moreover we find a rather clichéd media discourse across different formats and genres (Wolf, 2013bWolf, 2013c)., but rarely can perceive the voicse and the representations of survivors (Wolf, 2013a). Victim-centered, silencing and (re-)victimising discourse goes on and on and on. However, Spain is different and is absolutely worth to take into account their good practice model of awareness raising for further policies.

Moreover, I adovcate for gender peace and a new UN Decade for Women<a

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The Visual of Anti-violence Discourse in Europe by Birgit Wolf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Intern....
Based on a work at
_FRA – EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014), Violence against women: an European-wide survey. _Rose, Gillian (2001), Visual Methodologies. London, Sage.
_Wolf Birgit (2013a) ‘Shaping the visual’ of gender based violence. How visual discourse on intimate partner violence and European anti-violence initiatives construct accounts of the social world. Doctoral Thesis, Barcelona (Spain): Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. (For further information about the research please contact the author Birgit Wolf)
_Wolf, Birgit (2013b) Gender-based violence and the media. Representations of intimate partner violence: Information or disinformation? In: Oliveira, Victoria (ed.), Intercultural Communication, Representations and Practices: A Global Approach. Book CDRom, ISBN 978-989-98240-0-3, Centro de Estudos Interculturais (CEI), Instituto Superior de Contabilidade e Administração, Instituto Politécnico do Porto (ISCAP): Porto, Portugal. (Pre-Print Version of Full Paper)
_Wolf, Birgit (2013c) Gender-based violence and the challenge for visual representation. Comunicació. revista de recerca i d’anàlisi; ISSN   2014-0304, ISSN-e: 2014-0444, n.30, vol. 1, Maig, p. 193-216 (Full paper available as PDF)
_WHO World Health Organization (2005),. WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women, Summary report.
The research was presented at the conferences: # II International Conference on Gender and Communication, University of Sevilla, School of Communication 1 – 3  April 2014 # 2014
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*) the women’s anti-violence movements to be understood as emerging from the insitutionalised and non-insitutionalised womens’ movement (individual activists, NGOs, institutionalised entities of the movement like women’s ministries or departments, women’s/gender section of UN or European organisations).

Originally posted at  #endVAW – The Visual of Anti-violence Discourse in Europe

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Comment by Birgit Wolf on August 21, 2014 at 12:50

Hi Rituu, thanks for your feedback, the link is woking now :-)

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on August 20, 2014 at 20:08

Hi Birgit, thanks for the posting. I am unable to open the link. Please share it. 



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