Jessica Harris: Examining Campus Sexual Violence

Essays for Inside Higher Education explore systems and historical context that create sexual violence, marginalize victims of color.

Jessica Harris, assistant professor in Higher Education & Organizational Change, has published two essays in Inside Higher Education on sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Her research, which centers on campus sexual violence from the perspective of women of color, informs “3 Questions Reseachers Should Ask About Sexual Violence,” and “Power-Conscious Approaches to Sexual Violence,” which Harris co-wrote with Chris Linder, associate professor of college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia. Linder co-edited Harris’s recent book, “Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences.”

In the book, Harris and Linder’s contributors explore how the violent history of U.S. colonization continues to influence the campus lives of women of color. Their essay, “3 Questions Reseachers Should Ask About Sexual Violence,” posits that a power-conscious approach is necessary to fully understand the dynamics of sexual violence.

“College campuses are mostly made up of the same people who make up our larger communities, so racism and classism are showing up in our campus accountability systems, as well,” write Harris and Linder in this essay. “Campus police, campus judicial systems and even victim advocacy services are not immune from failing to consider the ways people from historically minoritized communities may not experience campus systems the same as students with mostly dominant identities.”

“Given the racialized history of sexual violence law and the current context of racism in legal and policy systems, administrators and educators on college campuses should consider community accountability processes as an option for addressing sexual violence.”

Linder and Harris address dominant ways of knowing and hidden assumptions about sexual violence in “3 Questions Reseachers Should Ask About Sexual Violence.” They note that the who, what, and when of sexual violence cases hold the keys to understanding the systems of oppression that create sexual violence in a society and “interrogate three seemingly straightforward questions that researchers must re-evaluate with a critical lens in an attempt to eradicate — not just prevent — campus sexual violence.”

“When people ask us what exactly [our] book is about, we often reply that it provides a critical approach to campus sexual violence,” write Harris and Linder. “Since the book was published, we have reflected on what we learned from the editing process. But even more, we find ourselves asking what makes this book and our work critical. What does a “critical approach” mean, especially as it relates to campus sexual violence?

“We understand that critical approaches to sexual violence account for systems of domination, power and privilege. Critical approaches challenge dominant ways of knowing and expose hidden assumptions that are often taken for granted. Critical approaches center the lived experiences of minoritized individuals who are pushed to the margins by those systems of domination, dominant ways of knowing and hidden assumptions.”

Visit these links to read “3 Questions Reseachers Should Ask About Sexual Violence,” and “Power-Conscious Approaches to Sexual Violence,” as presented by Inside Higher Education.