Identity and emotion management among advocates and counselors for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Kolb, Kenneth Hugh
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews, this dissertation examines the identity and emotion management strategies of staff in an agency that assists victims of domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA). In the first chapter, I investigate how staff were able to pre-empt and mitigate feelings of sadness, frustration, and guilt when their clients were revictimized. As long as staff were able to frame their services as empowering, even when they steered clients toward specific options, they were able to deflect responsibility for their clients’ outcomes. These findings offer an interactionist perspective (Blumer 1969; Mead 1934) on the consequences of the empowerment model within social service agencies. In the second chapter, I investigate how staff dealt with clients they thought of as difficult. When clients lied, returned to their abusers, broke rules, got angry, or failed to show up for appointments, they made it difficult for staff to feel and express sympathy for them. Although staff were able to generate sympathy for some clients by delving into their personal histories of abuse, they stopped doing so when they suspected their clients were exploiting their good will. These findings contribute to Clark’s conceptualization of sympathy overinvestors (1997) by highlighting how they can refuse sympathy and still maintain a moral identity (Kleinman 1996), seeing themselves as good people. In the third chapter, I show how the female staff enhanced the value of their care-work in the wider context of the devaluation of women’s emotional labor. Previous research has shown that women’s care-work garners few rewards across occupations (England et al. 1994; Kilbourne et al. 1994) and especially in male-defined workplaces (Fletcher 1999; Lively 2000; Pierce 1995). My findings show how this trend continues, even in a setting in which women’s care-work was a central value. The female staff countered outsiders’ beliefs that their services were (merely) intuitive and unskilled by displaying skills culturally coded as masculine.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Kleinman, Sherryl
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.