Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 101–119

Sympathy Work: Identity and Emotion Management Among Victim-Advocates and Counselors



Advocates and counselors who assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault often claim a moral identity that depends, in part, on their ability to sympathize with their clients. However, when their clients behave in ways that staff members perceive as “difficult” (i.e., lie, return to their abusers, break rules, express anger at those trying to help them, or fail to show up for appointments), feelings of sympathy can begin to wane—creating a moral identity dilemma. Data collected from participant observation and in-depth interviews outline four generic processes that advocates and counselors engage in to overcome this dilemma. These findings highlight the interdependent nature of identity and emotion management and contribute to previous scholarship on how those who claim a moral identity negotiate feelings that run counter to their identity code.


Identity Emotions Domestic violence Sexual assault Victim-advocacy 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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