Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Karen Blanchard


Research Focus: The purpose of this study was to explore how direct service providers in the fields of domestic and sexual violence advocacy experience, are impacted by, and cope with compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization and burnout caused by the work that they do on a daily basis. Little has been written about this ‘cost of caring’ despite the special vulnerability certain groups of people, such as the domestic and sexual violence advocates I interviewed for this research, have towards this occupational hazard.

Importance: Helping survivors get out, stay out and recover from unhealthy situations is the general purpose of domestic and sexual violence advocacy. When a survivor is being helped by well-trained, competent and emotionally-healthy advocates they are getting better quality of services and increased assistance. In order to attain and maintain happy, healthy and well-trained advocates it is of utmost importance that we are addressing the high turnover in the field – partially due to the compassion fatigue the advocates experience.

Research Methods: This research focused on literature reviews as well as on focus groups and on individual interviews with both current and past advocates who work or have worked for the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence in Corvallis, Oregon. Techniques of appreciative inquiry and positive deviance were utilized to explore what techniques direct service providers utilized to help them remain functional in the field.

Conclusions: Much more needs to be done to educate those who work with the traumatized to help them prevent, identify, and cope with compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization and burnout. Structural and cultural shifts need to happen within organizations to help increase the understanding of this pertinent topic, to create open, safe and confidential space for advocates to discuss their experiences and to normalize these experiences. Organizations need to support its own workers by providing both formal and informal debriefing, counseling services, support groups, stress management training, frequent and on-going supervision, continuing education and training opportunities, psychotherapy, organizational support and purposefully created workplace strategies to support and assist workers in their draining and emotionally trying positions.


Social Work | Work, Economy and Organizations