Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Garner, Ana

Second Advisor

Chattopadhyay, Sumana

Third Advisor

Slattery, Karen


Around the world one in every three women has been the victim of gender-based violence (Amnesty International USA, 2012). Be it sexual, physical, or psychological, violence against women is an epidemic that needs to end. Past research in the field of Communication has mainly focused on news media coverage of violent crimes. The accounts portrayed in news media were largely edited and focused on a hegemonic version of the experiences (Benedict, 1992; Meyers, 1997; Carll, 2003; Dowler, 2006). These news accounts generally ignore the lived experiences of the female victims, which leaves them feeling isolated in their victimization. Victims’ stories have also been largely left out of past research (outside of fields that work with victims such as Nursing and Social Work), yet understanding their experiences is critical to being able to battle violence against women. This study hopes to illuminate the realities of the lived experiences of victims, based on their own accounts. To do this the personal published stories of the victims of VAW were examined using fantasy theme analysis. Scene, dramatis personae, and action themes were categorized and compared between 22 published narratives written or told by victims of VAW. After the final categories were determined, an overarching narrative emerged from the victims’ stories, which reflects the lived experiences from victimization to recovery. The overarching story is told in three parts. The first part of the narrative tells of the victimization the women experienced. This includes how the victims made sense of the violence. The second part details how the victims came to the realization that the violence they suffered was not their fault. And the third part chronicles how the victims came to terms with their experiences, modified their behaviors, and were victims no more. By sharing their stories these victims helped to expand the knowledge base and understanding of the realities and lived experiences of victims of violence against women. All of these victims were able to get out, start their lives over, and share their stories publicly. This made them not only survivors, but heroes.