What are the different representations constructed for the victim in the headlines?: The Representation of Social Actors in News Headlines of Bella Abuse Case Research Paper, Malaysia

Subject The Representation of Social Actors in News Headlines of Bella Abuse Case



Discourse is defined as how the message is delivered in the text. Whether it is written in paragraphs, or said in a daily conversation, every sentence conveys a meaning behind it.

Foucault (1994) stated in his paper that he defined discourse as how people view something from their understanding. Meanwhile, in the sense of linguistics, discourse often pertains to the act of creating and comprehending written and spoken communication, with a strong emphasis on the connection between the individuals engaged in the conversation and the linguistic context (Foucault, 1992).

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When crafting article headlines, journalists employ specific language to convey particular messages within their stories.

In articles or news production, one of the most important parts in producing news is headlines. Tannenbaum (1953) described news headlines as “thumbnail sketch of the news, ” a “super-lead” or a “commercial sample”.

To simplify, it tells what the content offers to the readers and it determines the points delivered in the news stories. As a key method for capturing the reader’s interest, the headline’s primary objective is to pique the reader’s curiosity regarding the article’s subject, enticing them to open and read it (Chen, Conroy, and Rubin 2015 as cited in Kuiken et. al., 2017). In this paper, the representation of a special needs child and a daycare center founder will be focused by looking into headlines of this bully case.

The World Health Organization stated that across the globe, 10% of children are special needs children. Translating this figure into the Malaysian population of 24 million, there are about 800,000 children less than 15 years old with some form of special needs that requires special care (Tan & Yadav, 2008). Special needs children can be defined as individuals who require additional support and accommodations in their educational, developmental, or social settings due to physical, sensory, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral differences.

Lee et. al. (2007) mentioned in his paper that children who have special needs may experience disabilities related to their vision, hearing, speech, physical abilities, or learning challenges. These miraculous kids need extra attention from adults as some of them are not capable of taking care of themselves.

However, many people today do not have the awareness of loving these special kids. To them, since they are not categorized as normal kids, they do not deserve the right treatment to the extent these kids are bullied and abused. A systematic review of population-based studies by Spencer & Govindshenoy (2007) indicates that children with some, but not all, disabling conditions are at increased risk of abuse and/or neglect.

Also, a number of weak and small-scale studies found that children with all types of disabilities are abused more often than children without disabilities (Davis, 2019). Special needs kids can sometimes be seen as physically or mentally vulnerable, which can make them a target for bullies who prey on these vulnerabilities.

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Bullying is a widespread problem that affects people of all ages. It can have serious and lasting effects. In 2016, a special needs student, who suffers Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) was tied to a bed and beaten.

Also he was being spitted while performing his prayer and kicked on his back at his school. Unfortunately after informing the teacher, no further actions were taken to protect the victim. The student’s adopted mother decided to sue the school to seek justice for the special needs child. However, the High Court did not side with the victim and the school remained innocent.

This study will focus on an abuse case which involves a Down Syndrome teenager known as Bella. She was 15 years old when she was handed over to an orphanage home known as ‘Rumah Bonda’ owned by Siti Bainun. Bella, the victim, suffered physical and emotional injuries while in the custody of the accused Siti Bainun (Bernama, 2022).

Bella suffered from second-degree burns, and there was a 0.5 per cent burn on her right arm, and one per cent burn on her left. Additionally, there was an old scar on Bella’s head, and shaving off a patient’s hair is one way to treat a wound on the head (New Straits Times, 2022).

Bella was found to be in such conditions by the community nurse in the previous welfare home, Taman Sinar Harapan stated that when Bella was sent back to the home, the girl became afraid of people, that she was not the same as before and was traumatized and often screamed at night. The abuser, Siti Bainun is a well-known person who is an activist for charity work.


This study aims to fulfill two objectives through the study headlines:

  1. To identify different representations constructed for the victim in the headlines.
  2. To identify different representations constructed for the abuser in the headlines.


The study focuses on two research questions which are:

  1. What are the different representations constructed for the victim in the headlines?
  2. What are the different representations constructed for the abuser in the headlines?

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