Using Photovoice to Communicate Abuse: A Co-Cultural Theoretical Analysis of Communication Factors Related to Digital Dating Abuse




Weathers, Melinda R.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006), 5.3 million intimate partner abuse (IPA) incidents occur in the United States every year, resulting in approximately two million injuries and 1,300 deaths among women. Exposure to interpersonal abuse in dating relationships often begins in early adolescence and continues into adulthood. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2008) reports that approximately one in three adolescent girls (16 to 19 years) in the United States experience physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Additionally, the increased use of information and communication technologies, such as the Internet and cell phones, continues to become a prominent part of social life among teens and young adults. The rapid rate at which technology is developing has led to an emergent shift from face-to-face forms of IPA to digital forms of IPA. For example, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (2009), approximately one in three teens reported the experience of receiving text messages from a partner, up to 30 times in one hour, with questions regarding where they were, what they were doing, and/or who they were with. Given the prevalence of the growing phenomenon, this analysis will focus on co-cultural communication enacted by young women in digitally abusive heterosexual romantic relationships. Using a co-cultural theoretical frame of analysis, this study seeks to better understand communication practices of young women interacting as co-cultural group members within dominant societal structures. In particular, photovoice is used as a qualitative method to identify the co-cultural communication orientations and responses to acts of digital dating abuse in heterosexual romantic relationships. Data analysis revealed 15 salient themes with regard to women’s lived experiences of digital dating abuse and the co-cultural strategies used to manage such abuse. These accounts provide insight into the diverse communicative strategies and standpoints of the digitally abused women who participated in this study, and have implications for women, social science research, medical practice, educators/advocates, and society at large.



Intimate Partner Abuse, Communication Strategies, Co-Cultural Theory, Health, Digital Dating Abuse, Gender-Linked Power