Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

John van Willigen


This research explores the themes of participation and professionalization as they intersect with power in domestic violence advocacy by using a case study from one region in Kentucky. Throughout this dissertation, I investigate the ways political and economic pressures influence local domestic violence advocates and the ways these macro-level pressures influence 1) an advocate's level of participation in the organization and 2) a transition in social service provision to a professional model of advocacy. The research illustrates that the nature of domestic violence service provision is changing in the United States as a result of the increasingly privatized nature of social service provision and subsequent shifts in domestic violence advocacy participation practices and professionalization trends.Specifically, I explore the relationships between power and levels of participation in domestic violence advocacy by examining the relationship between power, the expectation for increased professionalization within social service agencies, and the local level negotiations of these expectations. Furthermore, I provide an ethnographic description of the daily activities of a domestic violence organization to illustrate why, how, and what aspects of the program are transformed in a new model of professionalized social service provision. Additionally, this research includes the voices of oral history participants in the domestic violence social movement in Kentucky. As services in Kentucky undergo a transformation aimed at further professionalizing domestic violence advocacy, the historic local knowledge of domestic violence advocacy and activism is useful for clarifying the foundations of contemporary advocacy service provision and activism by providing a longitudinal perspective.The changing field of domestic violence advocacy is marked by the move towards unequal power relationships between the advocates and the women, the lack of victims' and advocates' participation in the creation and implementation of programming and services, and the professionalization of domestic violence organizations and workers. This local case study contextualizes the trends that are currently acting upon social service organizations in general, thereby illustrating thecomplexity of human service provision by examining the multiple messages that domestic violence advocates, and thus human service care workers in general, negotiate.