Abstract: Bound By the State: Re-Centering Survivors amidst Professionalization, Criminalization and Structural Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Bound By the State: Re-Centering Survivors amidst Professionalization, Criminalization and Structural Violence

Friday, January 18, 2019: 2:15 PM
Golden Gate 4, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Gita Mehrotra, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Ericka Kimball, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Stephanie Wahab, PhD, Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Kelly Meyers, MSW, Graduate Student, Portland State University, OR
Stephanie Ng Ping Cheung, MSW, Graduate Student, Portland State University, OR

The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare recently released its Grand Challenges for Social Work. ‘‘Ending gender-based violence” constitutes one of two streams for the Grand Challenge #3, Stop Family Violence. Despite the proliferation of research and practice regarding domestic violence (DV) within social work, we posit that little attention is paid to the macro forces that create and shape anti-violence work impacting social work engagement with this Grand Challenge. As such, we have prioritized examining the ways that neoliberalism, criminalization, and professionalization create a “braid” that shapes and constrains the kind of work made im/possible in social work DV research and praxis. In this study, we explore the complexities of how the braid is both reinforced and resisted through a state-mandated DV advocate training.


Guiding our research was the following question: How does neoliberalism, criminalization, and professionalization of DV work (referenced as “the braid”), shape the training and socialization of domestic violence advocates in Oregon? To answer this question, we engaged case study methodology, specifically, a single case with embedded units with the aim to provide deeper insights into the ways that influential macro forces shape DV advocacy training in Oregon. The specific case for this research was the Oregon Coalition’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault online training for advocates. A feature of case study research is the engagement with multiple data sources to deepen understanding and bolster data credibility. Consequently, we engaged a policy analysis of federal and state policy documents for HB 3476 (State legislation conferring confidentiality privilege to DV advocates who complete the training). We also engaged a qualitative content analysis of the OCDVSA online training, and participant observation of the online training by going through the 40-hour training. Finally, we collected and analyzed semi-structured qualitative interviews with community stakeholders and triangulated the analyses of each method.


Our findings suggest that the training of systems and community-based DV advocates in Oregon, rests at the nexus between care and control. Evidence of competing constitutional, social, and political agendas are present in the genesis of both HB 3476 and the online training curriculum. The policy analysis provides historical context of U.S. policies around mandated training for DV and sexual assault advocates, and demonstrates the influence of the braid on DV advocacy work through a growth in training mandates to most U.S. states. Specifically, the training mandate reflects the field’s larger move toward professionalization of DV advocates. In addition, neoliberalism and criminalization is evidenced through the curriculum’s focus on micro level intervention for survivors and perpetrators. Finally, we also found evidence of resistance and subversion of these forces. Implications and recommendations for policy, practice, and DV advocate training will also be discussed.


This paper will extend the dialogue begun during our SSWR 2018 roundtable focused on “Counterhegemonic domestic violence analyses and movements” by presenting our critical feminist research and findings on the ways macro forces have shaped DV services and advocacy in Oregon.