I am a cultural anthropologist studying rape culture in the United States.
As a social scientist who has studied sexual violence for over a decade, I am committed to producing research, and engaging in teaching, that helps people understand the profoundly harmful ways that sexual assault impacts our everyday lives, regardless of whether we are direct survivors of such violence, or if we are “secondary survivors” who care about a loved one who has been assaulted. I am an anthropologist, an educator, and an advocate.
As an anthropologist, I study sexual violence and rape culture in the United States. In May 2014, I earned my PhD from the Department of Anthropology at American University. Quite simply, anthropology is the study of culture and people; I specialize in issues of gender inequality. More specifically, I study rape culture in the United States, and how women, men, and children are impacted by sexual violence. I am also very interested in conducting research about the motivations and rationales of perpetrators of sexual violence, and I am inspired by the work of organizations such as Men Can Stop Rape and Pro Mundo who provide valuable educational programs to help men and boys critically think about how they can use their privilege and strength to help other people, rather than to harm other people. In my future research, I plan to study the motivations and rationales of people who commit acts of sexual violence; only by understanding people’s motivations and reasons for violence, can we successfully develop ways to convince them to change their behaviors.
As an educator, I believe that it is my responsibility to share my knowledge about sexual assault with the people around me – whether those people are my students in college classes, or my friends and family members on Facebook, or members of the general public. Currently, I work as an adjunct professor for the Department of Anthropology and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at American University. Even if my classes are not specifically focused on issues of gender and sexuality, I always incorporate a few lessons about gender inequalities into my syllabi. This is because gender inequality is such an important issue in the United States – and around the world. Gender inequalities influence people every day, in many different ways. Sometimes gender inequalities are very subtle, and sometimes they are very obvious. I hope that I inspire my students to critically think about how different forms of social inequalities impact their own lives, and the lives of other people. You can access all of my syllabi here.
As an advocate, I rely on scientific research to support my belief that almost all of the time, alleged survivors of sexual violence are telling the truth about what happened to them. This does not mean that I do not believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” or that I oppose due process; I fully support the rights of all accused perpetrators to receive fair trials. At the same time, I rely on scientific research, my academic studies, and my experiences as a rape crisis advocate, to support my belief that quite often, survivors of sexual violence face overwhelming challenges when they try to prosecute the people who attack them. Furthermore, sexual violence causes extreme physical suffering and psychological harm to many survivors. Because of so many cultural stigmas surrounding sexual violence, sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the United States, and even when survivors try to achieve legal justice, most rapists do not spend even a day in prison. I became an advocate for sexual violence survivors because of my volunteer work with a wonderful organization in Chicago: Rape Victim Advocates. My volunteerism as a rape crisis advocate who met survivors in hospital emergency rooms changed my life; I witnessed the extreme challenges facing survivors as they tried to deal with hostile hospital staff, police officers, and family members, and I decided to commit my life to creating a better world for people who survived sexual assault.