Online support and domestic violence : negotiating discourses, emotions, and actions

Berg, Karin (2015) Online support and domestic violence : negotiating discourses, emotions, and actions. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis makes an original contribution to the study of online support on domestic violence (often referred to as online support communities/groups) through a discursive feminist perspective. Whilst the few previous studies on the topic are limited in scope, this is the first to adopt a mixed methods approach, exploring the topic through three sets of data from one online support forum on domestic violence: qualitative textual analysis of threads (n=215); an online survey (n=70); and two interviews with the manager of the forum and the moderator.

The thesis aims to explore the role of an online support forum for women in the process of ending violence in their lives. Six aspects of online support are explored: forum-host’s goals, history and development of the forum; the experience of online support from the perspective of its members; exploring the themes and topics dealt with in the forum; how forum users perceive the impact and relevance of these themes; how members construct emotions, violence, victims and perpetrators in written postings; and how members use violence discourse in support processes. The analysis of these aspects provides a new body of evidence regarding the possibilities of online support groups.

First, interviews with the forum hosts give a unique insight to the challenges with hosting the forum, pursuing moderation, and the limits and possibilities with using a public anonymous space. Second, through the survey, a sample of forum-members describes an eclectic form of mutual support, the experience of moderator’s work, and the interaction with other members. The forum's impact on participants’ understanding of violence, help-seeking and decision-making is measured. Third, the analysis of threads demonstrates in-depth members’ reflexive work (Giddens, 1991) in the forum, which comprehends the whole processes of ending violence, and shows how members use violence discourse to understand violence, manage emotions and encourage specific choices and actions. A discursive theoretical perspective explicates how support processes are enacted within and according to a normative practice. The findings suggest previously overlooked issues, in particular with regard to flexible long-term support for women with experiences of domestic violence (Kelly et al, 2014).

Karin Berg Final Thesis 2015_Redacted.pdf - Published Version

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