Expert Weighs in on Campus Sexual Assault, Title IX

Elizabeth Sharp and colleagues are spearheading an international pre-conference on sexual assault on colleges; the event will bring together nationally and internationally recognized violence researchers.

Campus sexual assault remains a difficult issue for universities throughout the nation. Research shows campus sexual assault victims are most likely to be assaulted in the first six weeks of college; estimates say most sexual assaults are committed by about 5 percent of college men. Additionally, while the rate of false reporting of rape or sexual assault is one in 10 or lower, many more people assume a woman fabricates her assault than assuming false reporting in other crimes. Universities must balance supporting the accuser, giving the accused due process and keeping students safe.

In her discussions of rape culture in her classes, Elizabeth Sharp, an associate professor of human development and family studies in the College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University and an affiliated faculty member with the Women’s Studies Program, argues the research shows sexual assault is a highly gendered crime – men are much more likely to be the perpetrators in attacks on women and other men. The attacks can be linked to the attacker’s assertion or reassertion of control, with control and dominance as main features of hegemonic masculinity. Additionally, the systems are stacked against victims, so action, especially from the legal system or a large number of universities, has been unusual. She believes more knowledge of the culture surrounding the crimes, and the high incidence of these crimes, on the part of university faculty and staff members related to how to handle reports of sexual assault and help victims will make a significant difference both in coping with this issue and decreasing the frequency of such attacks.

Sharp is an associate professor of human development and family studies in the College of Human Sciences and an affiliated faculty member with the Women’s Studies Program. Sharp, along with colleagues at Virginia Tech and the University of Connecticut, is spearheading an international pre-conference on sexual assault on colleges; the event will bring together nationally and internationally recognized violence researchers. Additionally, she and her two colleagues are guest editors for an upcoming issue of the Journal of Family Relations that will focus on the feminist framing of sexual assault on college campuses. She is chairwoman of the President’s Gender Equity Council at Texas Tech and recently gave a TEDx talk on this subject. She has presented at a series of workshops to educate faculty and staff members on Title IX issues and to clarify how to handle reports of sexual assault on campus. As a result of her expertise, several other universities have consulted with Sharp on these issues.

In addition, Sharp’s teaching on the role masculinity plays in sexual assault (that is, a perceived reaction to a lack of control) contributes to the understanding of the role misplaced masculinity plays in mass shootings, the vast majority of which are perpetrated by men.

Expert
Elizabeth Sharp, associate professor of human development and family studies, (806) 834-8652 or elizabeth.sharp@ttu.edu

Sharp on campus sexual assault

  • “College is a unique environment in that students have to live and work with the person who has harmed them. You’re not in an equal environment if you’re having to be in contact with your perpetrator on a daily basis.”
  • “This topic – rape, sexual assault – crosses all disciplines. One of the things I argue is that we’re all implicated, and I feel like we all need to know what some of the issues are and how we are responding or not responding appropriately.”
  • “I think one thing we could ask of our universities is for our faculty and staff to be knowledgeable of the ways in which our larger culture operates in a very gendered way. We know one of the biggest problems is blaming the victims. This wrong-headed blame is part of a larger culture that is male-centered.”
  • “I, like many scholars, argue there’s a crisis in masculinity to make some men feel they always have to be in control and always dominant, and that transcends into the sexual realm, which is arguably why we see way more men than women committing this crime.”

Sharp on mass shooters

  • “There’s something about masculinity and dominance that is linked to school shooting. With one exception, every one of these shooters has been a boy or a man. To get to the solutions, we need to start having a conversation about masculinity, perceived lack of control and the recourse to guns. These men, often white men who have been ostracized, want a way to get their power back. Then they resort to incredible violence.”

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College of Human Sciences

The College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University provides multidisciplinary education, research and service focused on individuals, families and their environments for the purpose of improving and enhancing the human condition.

The college offers a Bachelor of Science degree with disciplines in:

  • Apparel Design and Manufacturing
  • Community, Family, and Addiction Services
  • Early Childhood
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Interior Design
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Personal Financial Planning
  • Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management
  • Retailing

The college also offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies offers a wide range of courses and degrees in the areas of early childhood, human development, interpersonal relations and family studies.

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Family Studies
  • Bachelor of Science Human Development & Family Studies with teacher certification
  • Master of Science Human Development & Family Studies
  • Ph.D. in Human Development & Family Studies

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Women's & Gender Studies

Women's & Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary academic program that examines the cultural and social construction of gender, explores the history, experiences and contributions of women to society, and studies the influences of gender on the lives of women and men.

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