“Crafty” Rhetoric Legal Advocates Intervene for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

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Mary Lay Schuster


Building on mental health rhetoric research (MHRR), I explore how legal advocates in non-profit organizations guide survivors of domestic abuse in obtaining orders for protection (OFPs). State statutes not only dictate what a petition for an OFP must contain, but these statutes and resulting documents also reflect cultural and structural biases about domestic abuse. Through rhetorical analysis of state statutes and personal interviews with legal advocates in this inductive and qualitative study, I discovered that these advocates engage in subversive rhetorical intervention, what the advocates call “crafty” intervention. Such intervention is designed to meet the requirements of state statutes for an OFP and also provide a way for survivors to tell their stories in their own way. This intervention sets the stage for helping survivors heal from the trauma of domestic abuse, convincing judges that survivors need OFPs to stay safe, and demonstrating to state legislators that domestic abuse statutes may be too restrictive.   

Article Details

Research Articles
Author Biography

Mary Lay Schuster, University of Minnesota

Mary Lay Schuster is Professor Emerita in Writing Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the Law School at the University of Minnesota. She has written several publications on domestic and sexual abuse, including The
Victim’s Voice in the Sexual Misconduct Crisis and Victim Advocacy in the Courtroom (with Amy Propen).


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