Gender and Language, Vol 8, No 2 (2014)

The linguistic representation of sexual violence in conflict settings

Tamar Holoshitz, Deborah Cameron
Issued Date: 25 Jun 2014


Although numerous studies have examined the representation of sexual violence in news and legal discourse, less is known about its representation when it occurs in the context of military and political conflict. This study analyses reports from the New York Times on two such contexts: the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Analysis reveals both similarities with the language used to report rape in non-conflict settings, and differences between the language used to describe rape and sexual abuse in the two settings. It is argued that reporting on the DRC uses an illustrative frame, which presents violence against women in sexualized terms and neglects to identify perpetrators or interrogate their motives. Reporting on Abu Ghraib, by contrast, uses an investigative frame, which de-emphasizes both the sexual nature of the abuse and the experiences of victims, focusing instead on the perpetrators as objects of judicial examination.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v8i2.169


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