He Said, She Said: A Study of Gender, Framing, and Cultivation in the Ray Rice Domestic Violence Incident

Student Author(s)

Kasey Wierzbicki

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Mi Rosie Jahng

Document Type


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In 2014, Ray Rice, a player in the National Football League, found himself at the center of a domestic violence incident. Rice attacked his then-fiancé in an elevator and a video of the incident leaked to the public. The purpose of this research is to examine how news portrayals of Ray Rice on this incident have affected viewers’ support and acceptance of domestic violence based on cultivation and framing theory. Television consumption is a significant predictor of the levels of acceptance of rape violence (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011). Similarly, this study will examine the impact of domestic violence coverage on viewers’ acceptance of domestic violence. It is hypothesized that heavy viewers of NFL-related television are more supportive of Rice compared to non-heavy viewers, females are likely to be less accepting of domestic violence in the Rice incident compared to males, and negatively-framed news coverage will create a negative evaluation of Rice and domestic violence compared to positively-framed news coverage. In a 2x2 between-subjects experiment (male vs. female and positive tone vs. negative tone), participants watched news reports with either male anchors or female anchors. The reports were either positively or negatively framed. Afterward, participants completed a questionnaire about their level of support for Rice, their level of acceptance of domestic violence, and their average amount of weekly NFL-related television consumption. Participants were undergraduate students at Hope College, enrolled in communication courses, and voluntarily completed the experiment for partial course credit or extra-credit. Based on the results, it can be suggested that reporters using victim-blaming and perpetrator-defending frames when covering domestic violence influence the audience to believe that domestic violence is not problematic. The results of this study can be used to challenge news media to report more neutrally to affect a reduction in domestic violence incidents.

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