Thursday, April 16, 2015

URSP Student MaryAnn Vega Researches College Students and Victim Blaming Sexual Assault Victims

My URSP project was born out of the feminist methods class I took with Angela Hattery and Shannon Davis. The class was pushed to design studies using a different method each week. Due to the recent media attention on college sexual assault, I designed a survey that would measure the levels of victim blaming – or rape myth acceptance -- in my classmates. When the calculations were done, I found myself disappointed at the levels of rape myth adherence I found in my peers. When my disappointment passed I wanted to see if this data was generalizable and if there was some way I could make my campus safer for victims of sexual assault.
Wellness, Alcohol, and Violence Education and Services, held training for students that participated in my study, so we could determine how effective an intervention program was at combating rape myth acceptance. On a weekly basis, I am coding and analyzing data, measuring the reliability of my scales, and thinking about how students respond to having their beliefs challenged. One of the most interesting things I have learned is that people often have trouble understanding how violent beliefs and actions can become social norm. The training showed that students did not understand how intentional isolation from friends, and continuing to grab drinks for a peer, can be signs of danger instead of a romantic social interaction.
The growth of my knowledge has been necessary for my professional goals. I have found the validation I needed to believe that I could stay in academia and contribute to sociological scholarship. I have learned how to read and analyze quantitative data, how to properly use ethnographic methods, and to the benefit of my future employers, how to master Microsoft Excel. Personally, it has been made clear that I can cultivate change through research. This makes my goals of scholar-activism feel real and feasible. Lastly, the experience has been indispensable as it has helped prepare me for my upcoming years of graduate school and all research endeavors.