Domestic Violence Services as Sites of Contested Media Framing and Engagement: Two case studies from Ontario

Various processes, such as victim blaming, individualizing, and sensationalizing, have been used in news media to simplify and frame domestic violence in ways that do not address root causes of the issue. Domestic violence service providers, such as shelters, attempt to help survivors address the complexity of their situations and often operate using more critical frameworks of gender-based violence, patriarchy and dominance. However, shelters often engage with the media as an ally to maintain community support for their organizations. During ethnographic fieldwork with an urban women’s shelter in Ontario, the impact of media frames on social understandings of domestic violence was explored to determine how these contradicting frames may impact the types of services and populations deemed to be in need of support in the community.

During fieldwork, social networking arose as a possible strategy for the shelter to resist and proactively create a new frame based on their organizational perspective. Therefore, investigations of the shelter’s current use of, and attitudes towards, social networking were conducted and analyzed using cyberfeminist theories. Preliminary findings based on the input of frontline staff and the management team will be discussed along with the subsequent social networking action plan developed to address the many ideas and concerns raised during the research process.


Janan Dean is social worker and PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is interested in reflective, decolonizing and intersectional practice and research. Currently, her PhD research project explores the relationships between power, control, knowledge hierarchies, and gender through an interpretive, critical ethnography of information technology use in two women’s shelters in Ontario, Canada. On her days off she enjoys skiing, jewelry-making and watching Criminal Minds.