Gender and Language, Vol 13, No 2 (2019)

Disclosing violence in calls for help

Emma Tennent, Ann Weatherall
Issued Date: 31 Jul 2019


Violence against women is a pervasive problem, both in New Zealand society and around the world. Yet assessing the scale and effects of violence is difficult, as many women face barriers to disclosure. This paper examines women’s disclosures of violence in calls for help to a victim support agency. We use conversation analysis and focus on membership categorisation to describe the different ways disclosures are built and understood in situ. It was only in a minority of cases (around 20%), that callers made direct reference to violence, or categorised themselves explicitly as victims, albeit with indications of problems in speaking. However, for the majority, women did not mention the words ‘victim’ or ‘violence’ at all. Instead, culturally shared knowledge associated with categories of people (e.g. ex-partners) and places (e.g. home and jail) were used to build and interpret a description as a disclosure of violence. Our work contributes to an understanding of women’s disclosures of violence by examining them directly in the setting where they occur. We discuss some of the insights gained from examining interactions in situ, and the practical applications of our work for improving services for women who have experienced violence.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.35106


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