Catherine Kaukinen Discusses New Book on Violence Against College Women


From left, Hughes Miller, Ráchael Powers and Catherine Kaukinen collaborated to co-edit a new book released this year called “Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses.” Photo by Rion Sabean, College of Arts & Sciences, USF

A new book, “Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses” was released in July 2017. The book explores many topics concerning women and violence on college and university campuses nationwide, including sexual, dating and intimate partner violence and stalking against women. The book was a collaborative endeavor with Catherine Kaukinen, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at UCF and two professors from the University of South Florida — Ráchael A Powers, associate professor and graduate director in the Department of Criminology, and Michelle Hughes Miller, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Kaukinen sat down with me to speak about the book.

  • What does it mean to co-edit a book versus co-write a book? With our book originally, the publisher wanted the three of us, who are editors, to write the entire book ourselves. We considered that and we decided that the reason that we chose to do an edited volume was … the perspectives that we wanted to include in the book. This included Title IX coordinators, victim service providers, student activists and a diversity of theoretical perspectives and expertise. Without those voices and perspectives, we felt that the book would not have been as strong. But, as editors, we contributed substantially to the edited book, which is somewhat unusual. I contributed five chapters to the book and, as editors, we contributed a total of nine of the 18 chapters.
  • What originally made you pursue this topic for the book? It was actually the publisher who came to us with the idea. Approximately two years ago, Temple University Press decided they wanted to see this book. There is not really a book like ours that focuses on the specific things that happened particularly under the Obama administration or that has integrated work from practitioners. Of anything I’ve done in the last 15-20 years, it’s this book [that’s most significant], and every day, with all that I am seeing, I see this book is more and more crucial.”
  • Why do you believe now is it more important for this book to be out there? The leadership at the [U.S.] Department of Education is beginning to speak very vocally on their perceptions of the extent, dynamic and nature of sexual assault of college students. Most recently, this includes statements that 90 percent of sexual assaults investigated are “drunken regret sex.” This statistic was quickly thrown out into the public with no evidence or corroboration. And while the Department of Education subsequently released a statement apologizing, it is really too late. Here’s the problem that I have with these types of apologizes; you say something completely offensive, incorrect, uncorroborated and demeaning, but now the narrative is out there. Because that narrative is out there, you can’t pull it back. The narrative that is now in the mind of the public is that college sexual violence is most often (90 percent of the time), both parties were drunk and had drunken sex that one party regrets. This is the narrative that the public will remember – not the apology. They did not release a follow up statement that drew on the data we do have on the nature and extent of sexual violence among college students as we outline in our book. Importantly, our book highlights how perpetrators use alcohol to immobilize and take advantage of their victims. And that narrative is not getting out there. We are not hearing about the impact of sexual violence and how often women are victims. The majority of sexual violence is not reported to campus authorities and those victims are suffering alone. That needs to remain a central part of the discussion. To understand sexual violence and its impact, we need the voices of those victims. Our book is also a toolkit for campuses and those charged with ensuring the safety of students. We have outlined in our book the extent and nature of campus violence against woman, factors that shape the culture and risk, federal and other interventions, and directions for us to address the problem. I also think universities have done really hard work to become in line with federal legislation totally unfunded, including UCF, and this is like a toolkit for them.
  • What do you hope the impact of this book will be on the university level? I’d love to see universities make a bold statement in saying, ‘Even though we are not forced to do XYZ by the federal government, we’re still going to continue to do what we are doing to prevent and respond to sexual violence because our students matter more.’ The dedication in this book is that women who enter college in 2017 don’t have to deal with what women had to deal with upon entering college in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Written by Drexler B. James ’13

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