Storying Domestic Violence: Constructions and Stereotypes of Abuse in the Discourse of General Practitioners

Storying Domestic Violence: Constructions and Stereotypes of Abuse in the Discourse of General Practitioners

Storying Domestic Violence: Constructions and Stereotypes of Abuse in the Discourse of General Practitioners

Storying Domestic Violence: Constructions and Stereotypes of Abuse in the Discourse of General Practitioners

Synopsis

Globally, at least one in four women experiences domestic violence at some point in her life, according to World Bank figures, which are confirmed by local surveys throughout the world. Since domestic violence can cause both acute physical injuries and long-term chronic illness, an abused woman is likely to appeal to a family doctor or general practitioner as one of her first resources for help. General practitioners, however, rarely report domestic violence in their practices. Jarmila Mildorf's interdisciplinary study makes a unique contribution to the fields of domestic abuse and narrative studies with her analysis of the narrative practices of doctors who treat abused women. Mildorf, a sociolinguist and literary scholar, analyzes the narrative trajectories, space-time parameters, agency, modalities, metaphors, and stereotypes in thirty-six narratives deriving from in-depth interviews with twenty general practitioners in Aberdeen, Scotland. Mildorf shows what these narrative strategies reveal about the perceptions and attitudes of practitioners toward domestic violence and the ways in which the narratives linguistically reconstruct knowledge and realities of domestic violence. Unique in its emphasis on the discourse of doctors, Storying Domestic Violence suggests the possibility of narrative approaches in medical modules that might preclude further stigmatization and victimization of abused women. A cross section of scholars will recognize this study as significant for its potential to change how people think about domestic abuse, physician-patient relations, and public health policy.

Excerpt

Between one quarter and half of all women in the world experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to World Bank figures (Bunch 1997:42). Local surveys and studies throughout the world confirm this finding. Since domestic violence causes both acute physical injuries and long-term chronic illness, abused women are likely to appeal to their family doctors or general practitioners as one of their first resources for help. However, general practitioners rarely report domestic violence in their practices. Why do doctors not notice domestic violence, and why do women not disclose it to them? What makes communication about domestic violence between doctor and patient so difficult? This study's unique contribution to the problem of prevalence and oversight is its examination of doctors' narrative practices around treatment rather than the women's stories of abuse, which have received more attention in previous research. in addition, the study proposes solutions from within the same narrative paradigm.

A few studies over the last years have focused on general practitioners' attitudes toward and perceptions of domestic violence and have also, albeit mostly cursorily, taken into account stigmatizing discourses and stereotypical imagery. By considering general practitioners' narrative discourses about domestic violence against the background of theories of narrative and knowledge and by applying narrative-analytic tools, this study opens up new vistas for the application of narrative research in this field. the book has emerged from two of my main areas of interest: the relationship between language and social problems, on the one hand, and the study of narrative, on the other. As a result, this work seeks to answer two interrelated questions: first, to what extent and in what ways are notions of “language,” “discourse,” and “narrative” relevant for the functioning of social life and of people's everyday social practices in general as well as for the emergence and recurrence of social problems in particular? Second, can linguistic analysis and the study of narrative forms in discourse contrib-

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