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Moral Wages

Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Moral Wages
    Book Description:

    Moral Wagesoffers the reader a vivid depiction of what it is like to work inside an agency that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Based on over a year of fieldwork by a man in a setting many presume to be hostile to men, this ethnographic account is unlike most research on the topic of violence against women. Instead of focusing on the victims or perpetrators of abuse,Moral Wagesfocuses exclusively on the service providers in the middle. It shows how victim advocates and counselors-who don't enjoy extrinsic benefits like pay, power, and prestige-are sustained by a different kind of compensation. As long as they can overcome a number of workplace dilemmas, they earn a special type of emotional reward reserved for those who help others in need: moral wages. As their struggles mount, though, it becomes clear that their jobs often put them in impossible situations-requiring them to aid and feel for vulnerable clients, yet giving them few and feeble tools to combat a persistent social problem.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95866-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Emotional Dilemmas
    (pp. 1-20)

    Staff meetings at SAFE (Stopping Abuse in Family Environments) were typically dry affairs—an agenda of items to cover, a list of tasks to be divvied up, various reports from different offices—but this one felt different. Kelly, a co-director at SAFE, had just introduced a new topic—“service gaps”—and posed a question to the group: “What can we do to keep clients from falling through the cracks?” Cathleen, a victim advocate, spoke first: “I’ve been having nightmares about not helping women out. I wish the other staff [in the office] knew we were operating at a bare minimum.”The...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Moral Wages
    (pp. 21-52)

    Although there is a wealth of research on victims, their experiences, and the causes of abuse, less scholarship focuses on those whose job it is to help them. This is understandable. Victims elicit public sympathy, and we should devote our attention to them so that we can learn how to help them. We should also look to the people causing their pain—the abusers—and ask how or why they continue to harm people with whom they often have intimate relationships. However, by focusing solely on victims and abusers, we often forget to ask questions about the service providers in...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Empowerment in Practice
    (pp. 53-84)

    It’s not often that we hear a speech or read a pamphlet about helping others that does not mention the wordempowerment.According to the dictionary, to “empower” is to give someone power and authority to do something—presumably something good.¹ In the legal realm, this typically involves allowing others to make decisions on your behalf—like permitting a lawyer to sign a contract for you. Among social service agencies, empowering others carries a similar, but different meaning. Most often, it entails helping others by offering them the time, resources, and encouragement they need to make their own decisions.


  7. CHAPTER FOUR Difficult Clients
    (pp. 85-112)

    “There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ client.” I heard this the first day of my volunteer training. As it turned out, this lesson has weighty implications: whether or not a client lives up to the “ideal victim” stereotype can mean the difference between getting a protective order signed by a judge or having the police not believe her recollection of events. The victim advocates and counselors at Stopping Abuse in Family Environments (SAFE) saw this as unfair and were highly critical of what they called “perfect victim” myths.¹ They argued that real-life victims of domestic violence (DV) and...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Allure of Legal Work
    (pp. 113-141)

    When it comes to incidents of abuse, many people assume that calling the police is the best thing a victim can do. The thinking goes, if someone is harmed, they should call on the law to help—immediately. To choose not to do so is a sign of something wrong: only the misguidedly loyal would choosenotto call 911. However, inside places like SAFE (Stopping Abuse in Family Environments), the criminal justice system is viewed with more suspicion than outsiders would expect.

    Even though legal remedies can do a lot of good for victims of domestic violence (DV) and...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Men at Work
    (pp. 142-168)

    When I meet new people and tell them about my experiences at SAFE (Stopping Abuse in Family Environments), I usually get one of two responses. The first is typically a quick acknowledgment that it must be emotionally challenging to spend so much time in a place like that. This reaction is understandable and reveals the moral terrain that victim advocates and counselors travel on a daily basis. Outsiders have a lot of respect for people who help victims. Even skeptics of places like SAFE still indicate some degree of admiration for people who help others in need. It is not...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Managing Dilemmas and Retooling
    (pp. 169-186)

    The emotional dilemmas that victim advocates and counselors face are not random. They are not the product of poor coping skills or unpredictable budget cuts. Instead, I argue that these workplace puzzles are structured into their work. People who work in places like SAFE (Stopping Abuse in Family Environments) may interpret their feelings of stress, worry, frustration, as isolated events, but they are not. Staff members’ complaints about being misunderstood or underappreciated by outsiders are too predictable to be dismissed as products of chance. Instead, they are constant features of the challenging landscape of victim advocacy and counseling. Their patterned...

  11. APPENDIX: Fieldwork Methods
    (pp. 187-192)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 193-202)
    (pp. 203-212)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 213-224)