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“A Pandemic within the Pandemic”: A CDA of Social Media Comments on Domestic Violence during COVID-19

Antonella Napolitano



Violence against women is a ubiquitous phenomenon, characterised by a series of psychological, physical, sexual, and persecutory acts that cause harm and suffering of various kinds to the victim. The issue, already declared a pandemic by the UN Secretary General in 2008, became a worrying pandemic within the pandemic with the outbreak of the epidemiological emergency from COVID-19 in the early 2020s. From the beginning, the media and specialised services spoke of a possible increased risk of adverse outcomes for the health and well-being of those already living in vulnerable situations before the onset of COVID-19. The threat was due to forced confinement (lockdown) and the difficulties for victims living with the abuser to report and turn to support services. A vital role in the rethinking and reorganisation of services and in the networking that has underpinned social work in the emergency period is represented by the use of technology and the modification of information flows that followed. A strong propensity emerges for the widespread use of digital tools, of the net in the widest sense, up to the use of social media, both to intercept beneficiaries and for the provision of services and their communication. The present study investigates user-generated discourse about domestic violence during COVID-19 by examining the replies to a Facebook post by the World Health Organization (WHO) (on 24 June 2021) reporting the increased risk for women during the pandemic. Critical Discourse Analysis represents a valid framework to investigate social media communication as expressing ideological meanings and sustaining hierarchically gendered social orders. In particular, the study seeks to identify the discursive means employed by online users to frame domestic abuse and express their position. It has also uncovered how the users exploit the topic to convey their views on other issues related to COVID-19 (e.g. vaccines, government policies).


corpus-assisted discourse analysis; COVID-19; domestic violence; social media discourse; user generated content (UCG)

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2023-002-napa

Copyright (©) 2023 Antonella Napolitano – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

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