Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Mimi Abramovitz

Committee Members

Andrea Savage

Barbara Simon

Subject Categories



Rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence as social problems have been studied extensively in the literature. However, the experiences of workers who counsel these clients have been given little written attention. The purpose of this study was to explore—in depth—how a group of 21 women rape crisis center workers experienced their jobs. What areas presented challenges and which offered particular satisfaction? Open-ended qualitative interviews were used to generate data on this phenomenon of rape crisis center employment.

Findings suggest that, although social work with clients affected by rape, incest, and domestic violence presented workers with a host of challenges, such as increased feelings of vulnerability, difficulty trusting men, and a questioning the overall goodness of society, there were numerous positive effects as well. Workers reported being able to weed abusive people out of their lives and to sharpen their advocacy and sexual assault prevention skills. In an effort to get at the root of the problems affecting their clients, they learned to reach beyond individual interventions and to apply strategies for social change, such as teaching and advocacy.

These positive and negative effects of the work influenced the workers, both personally and professionally. They learned new things about themselves and, in turn, contributed to changing the lives of clients and society as a whole. Not only were the 21 workers themselves changed as a result of their work, but their relationship with others, specifically their children and male partners, were also changed. As parents, they were somewhat more cautious and protective; in relationships with men, they were more defensive and skeptical.

For many of the workers, rape crisis center employment fostered in them a new or altered feminist ideology. Feminism was found to inform their decisions to join rape crisis centers. This philosophy offered workers a context for understanding the causes of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. Feminism helped frame their experiences of being women in the world, with the realities of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence ever present.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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