American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations

Contested Titles: Gendered Violence Victim Advocacy and Negotiating Occupational Stigma in Social Interactions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Sandra Faulkner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Madeline Duntley (Other)

Third Advisor

Jorge Chavez (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)


This dissertation employs a mixed-method approach to explore the experiences and perceptions of domestic and sexual violence victim advocates. Advocates are trained professionals who provide support, information, and resources to victims who have experienced gendered violence. Little research examines domestic and sexual violence victim advocates despite the thousands who work across the United States. The existing literature research primarily uses quantitative methods to examine the negative emotional impact of employment. Few, if any, studies ask questions about how external factors and experiences of every day life affect advocates, on or off the job.

As a result, this research investigates what it means to be an advocate in a socio-relational context by exploring advocates' experiences of occupational identity when interacting with strangers or new acquaintances. Occupational identity is a primary point of interaction within the social world, and advocacy is a complex, politically, and culturally situated occupation within the United States. Advocates are subject to a host of reactions when they introduce their jobs to strangers or new acquaintances—many of these experiences communicate stigma based on occupational choice rather than personal identity. Thus, this dissertation examines the presence and effects of occupational stigma on advocates, which is most clearly seen through the deployment of positive and negative stereotype and the relational process of Othering.

Using data gathered from 21 in-depth interviews with advocates as well as a survey with 221 respondents, this study uses cultural studies, feminist methodology, and sociological theory to demonstrate that occupational stigma experienced through short introductory interactions has an effect on advocates' sense of self, sense of work, and willingness to share their occupational identity. Advocates and advocacy organizations have few resources to consider and prepare their employees for the experience of stigma. To assist organizations, this dissertation examines the relationship between experiences of Othering, stereotype, and stigma to feelings of burnout. Finally, this dissertation provides concrete suggestions on how to train advocates, provide support to organizations, and reduce the impact of occupational stigma on victim advocates. Such research offers new areas for consideration and exploration for those interested in victim advocacy, care-work, the micropolitics of occupational identity, and stigmatized occupations.