Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Committee Member

Melissa Rorie

Second Committee Member

Gillian Pinchevsky

Third Committee Member

Hong Lu

Fourth Committee Member

Tara Emmers-Sommer

Number of Pages



Domestic violence (DV) is a serious issue that impacts millions of Americans each year. Although empirical research has traditionally focused on the experiences of victims that identify as heterosexual, cisgender women, more recently studies have found that members of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual, cisgender men are disproportionately impacted as well. Even though research has indicated that DV is a social issue that knows no social boundaries, disparities exist in the services offered to various victim populations, particularly members of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual, cisgender men. While these disparities have been noted over the past few decades, little research has been done to assess how victim service providers (VSPs) frame DV as a social issue and how this framing may have an impact on staff perceptions of legitimate victimhood.

The current study aimed to fill this gap in literature using a sequential qualitative design that draws upon Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA) and constructivist grounded theory (CGT). More specifically, an FDA was conducted assessing VSP materials (e.g., pamphlets, brochures, websites) to identify the dominant discourses present within VSPs themselves. This analysis indicated that two discourses are present within the materials: 1) a heteronormative discourse and 2) a gender-equitable/neutral discourse. Most frequently, agencies framed DV in a heteronormative manner that emphasized heterosexual, cisgender women’s victimhood over other victim populations. The neutral discourse was present across materials (and consisted of a somewhat more egalitarian representation of DV), but this framing often coincided with heteronormative representations of DV.

The findings of the FDA were then used to inform a semi-structured interview guide used during the CGT. Interview data with current victim advocates led to the development of a theoretical model that highlights the knowledge transmission process that occurs within VSPs. This model consisted of three stages: 1) the static phase, 2) the transitional phase, and 3) the informed phase. Advocates entered their positions with preconceived notions of various victim populations and of DV itself. These notions were then shifted as advocates went through the onboarding process with their respective agencies and interacted with various populations in the course of their work. These shifts during the transitional phase ultimately led to a neutral view of DV where advocates believed that any population could be a victim of DV (informed phase).

The overall findings indicate that VSP materials are lacking in the inclusivity of their materials. These materials generally place the primary focus on heterosexual, cisgender women who experience DV, rather than working towards including violence experienced by members of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual, cisgender men in the greater DV narrative. This finding is replicated in the onboarding process as advocates noted that training for working with such populations were limited in comparison to the training for supporting heterosexual, cisgender women. The study concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the research design, as well as how the findings of this study can better inform VSP practices and future research focused on gender, sexuality, and violence.


Constructivist Grounded Theory; Discourse Analysis; Domestic Violence; Heteronormativity; LGBTQ; Victim Service Providers


Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice

File Format


File Size

1911 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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