Date of Award
Sexual violence, Victim advocacy, Women, Race
Sexual Violence victim advocacy agencies are dominated by White women advocates often creating barriers for women of color survivors seeking assistance (Tillmann et al, 2010; Washington, 2001). White women’s dual and sometimes conflicting locations of race (White) and gender (woman) influence how they practice advocacy. Communication scholarship has provided little research in this area tending to focus on the experiences of survivors of sexual violence or larger forms of advocacy. In this research, I explore the personal narratives of six White women advocates in addition to my own autoethnographic journey to examine how we negotiate and communicate our identities as both oppressor and oppressed when advocating for women of color.
The results—our stories, experiences, and perspectives—shed light on how power is communicated in a space that is intended to be safe and empowering. Emergent themes included a difficulty in addressing race, specifically whiteness, in our advocacy, an inability to sit at the intersection of White womanhood, and the utilization of womanhood as a primary point of connection with women of color survivors. In addition to these primary themes, smaller themes surfaced. These included the problem of speaking for others, White motherhood, the influence of whiteness on their advocacy, the good (White) girl, and White benevolence or threads of the White hero or savior.
The advocacy relationship is inherently communicative, engaging narratives of both power and marginalization. It is a practice and location of empowerment yet as the results identify, it has the capacity to reify dominant notions of whiteness and womanhood. While all the advocates in the study endeavor to practice inclusive advocacy when working with women survivors of color, narratives of White supremacy bleed into their work. Shades of the White hero or savior manifest in their desire to help and do the right thing, as well as implicit, and sometimes explicit, narratives of White womanhood as inherently good and selfless. My research demonstrates that when White women are the ones speaking for women of color survivors, they cannot escape the influence of their social location on how they engage in speaking for their clients.
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Ingarfield, Lisa Jane, "Race, Gender, and the Negotiation of Power for White Women Sexual Violence Victim Advocates" (2014). Restricted Access ETDs. 53.
Received from author
Lisa Jane Ingarfield
Communication, Womens studies