First Advisor

Stephanie Wahab

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Family violence, Social movements, Human rights, Qualitative research



Physical Description

1 online resource (217 pages)


This study explores the manner in which leaders working in the domestic violence field in the US have or have not adopted a human rights framework and what impact this has had on domestic violence policy and intervention. Participants included leaders from national domestic violence and human rights organizations. These organizations are instrumental in developing policy and in framing the issues of domestic violence and human rights, many of which also work with specific racial and ethnic populations. Some of the primary research questions included: If the human rights discourse is being put to practical use within the US, how does it meet the needs of women of color, immigrants, and other women who have been marginalized? Does bringing the issue of domestic violence into a human rights framework reinscribe hegemonic feminism in ways that are either ineffectual or oppressive and colonizing to women of color, immigrants and/or women in marginalized groups in the US and if so, in what ways? Additional research objectives include assessing whether there is active resistance to adopting a human rights framework and benefits and challenges to using the framework. This research uses the critique and experiences of women of color as a focal point.

Through the use of critical ethnography and autoethnography, this study examines the manner in which the power to frame and define social problems unfolds. Findings suggest a limited dialogue to date between national domestic violence and human rights organizations with a range of thoughts regarding potential benefits and barriers to reframing domestic violence as a human rights violation. Barriers include lack of resonance/U.S. exceptionalism, power of the State to direct funding and focus, and reluctance to shift status quo based in part in white privilege. Benefits of cross-organizational dialogue include expanding focus, building coalitions, and engaging diverse communities in addressing domestic violence issues. Intersectional issues related to gender, race/ethnicity, immigration, and sovereignty are also explored. This research suggests that social workers need to continue to critically assess the application of human rights to social justice issues and the role that privilege plays in social movements and social policy formation.


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