Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

S. Melinda Spencer

Abstract

Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most pressing public health and human rights issues in the United States overall, and more specifically, in South Carolina (SC). SC consistently ranked among the highest in the nation in terms of female homicide rates. Non-profit organizations (NPOs) that focus their work specifically on GBV constitute an essential component of prevention and mitigation efforts in SC. Advocates who work for GBV-specific NPOs experience a wide range of psychosocial health and well-being benefits and risks due to their work. This study aimed to: 1) Identify the relationships between engaging in paid GBV-specific advocacy and psychosocial health and well-being within the political, social, economic, and cultural context of SC, and 2) Understand the organizational processes that influence self-care practices among individuals who engage in paid GBV-specific advocacy. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 GBV-specific advocates who work for NPOs in SC. I used Constructivist Grounded Theory in coding and analyzing the data. I was also guided by Standpoint Theory, and Feminist Intersectionality in exploring the GBV-specific advocacy experiences of the participants. Major themes that relate to the organizational factors shaping psychosocial health and well-being of the advocates included: management and leadership style, interpersonal relationship dynamics, and culture of self-care. Work experiences of the advocates were shaped by their social location (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity). Advocates of color, and queer, gender non-conforming, lesbian advocates experienced tokenism and negative stereotypes in their organizations. I also found that unique characteristics of the southern culture, including patriarchal values, religious norms, and conservative gender roles influenced advocates’ work experiences, and how others received their work. GBV-specific NPOs need to acknowledge their responsibility related to supporting psychosocial well-being and self-care practices among their staff members, and develop collective self-care practices that incorporate the specific perspectives and needs of the advocates. In addition, employing organizational strategies that uncover and combat hidden stereotypes and biases is required to create an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.

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