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Why wouldn’t you just say that? : self-silencing and negation as strategies of the null persona in battered women’s narratives
December 13, 2013
Department or Program
This thesis examines the personal narratives of female intimate partner violence survivors. These narratives are used to identify how women blame themselves for entering and staying in abusive relationships, how they minimize their own abuse, and how they are uncertain and dismissive of their experiences. The rhetorical strategies that survivors use to self-blame, minimize, and dismiss their experiences of abuse are labeled as “self-negating” and “self-silencing.” Through an analysis of intimate partner related court case transcripts and news articles, I examine how dominant views of intimate partner violence also blame victims, minimize abuse, dismiss, and question the experiences of battered women. Amid this parallel discourse, the women’s personal narratives show that they view themselves in a way that reflects dominant views. They do so even though they are free of the extra-discursive constraints defined by Dana Cloud as social, political, and economic factors that influence a rhetor. Cloud argues that the presence of these social, political, and economic extra-discursive constraints is what forms a “null persona” or a persona that renders the rhetor, him or herself, the irrelevant or negated party through their discourse. By taking into account the implied audience of narratives posted at violenceunsilenced.com, I argue, contrary to Cloud, that the null persona exists even in the absence of extra-discursive constraints. As these women write their narratives, they face no physical threats, economic incentive, or overt social pressure, yet their rhetoric reflects that they are still affected by the dominant views of intimate partner violence. The null persona created by this type of rhetoric has the effect of serving as a strategic tool which forms identification between previous and current victims of IPV.