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Title:Expanding the scope of interpersonal violence: An examination of violence, authority, and status within street harassment
Author(s):Hutson, Ashley C. F.
Director of Research:McDermott, Monica
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McDermott, Monica
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sandefur, Rebecca; Liao, Tim; Dowling, Julie
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Street Harassment
Sexual Violence
Bystander Intervention
Abstract:Street harassment offers a unique opportunity to examine interpersonal violence among strangers and loose acquaintances. In this project, I conceptualized the issue of street harassment by foregrounding inequalities—positioning cultural understandings of gender, race-ethnicity, and sexuality—as central to the experience of harassment. Street harassment is analyzed using sociological and feminist theories in an effort to adequately contextualize the impact of these factors within the experience of harassment. Of particular importance to this project are the concepts of violence, authority, power, and control. In the first chapter (Chapter 1), street harassment is examined as a phenomenon. I consider the impact of cultural understandings of gender, race-ethnicity, and sexuality on interpersonal interactions in an effort to demonstrate the complexity and variability of street harassment. Through secondary qualitative analysis of over one thousand cases of street harassment and an analysis of street harassment survey data (Chapter 2), I examine what the experiences of street harassment reveal about social inequality in contemporary American culture. I explore violence (Chapter 3) as it is experienced by targets of harassment in four metropolitan cities across the United States and their nearby college towns. A key finding of this study is that among all sites, harassers exploited a number of socially significant features in order to maximize their power and control within interactions (Chapter 4). The trends in these data suggest that harassers amplify harm by capitalizing on shared ideas of authority (Chapter 5) and rely upon the knowledge that bystander intervention is rare (Chapter 6). Of note, authority figures, like police officers and security guards, sometimes leveraged their positions of authority by harassing targets while in uniform. In addition, police officers seemed to rely upon the masculinized Blue Wall of Silence to ensure that targets of harassment did not seek recourse for harassment. Other authority figures, like some transport operatives, used their knowledge of sensitive information, like one’s home address or control over a vehicle, to implicitly threaten harm. Furthermore, family members, friends, employers, and bystanders compounded the negative emotions associated with harassment by tacitly condoning harassment and shaming targets for their behavior. By highlighting the similarities of techniques used to harass strangers and abuse intimate partners (Chapters 3 and 7), this research recognizes the need for street harassment to be considered on the continuum of violence and points toward the overlap in research on violence and experiences of street harassment. This research provides a new perspective on street harassment as a seemingly ubiquitous form of interpersonal violence and identifies avenues of future research that applies this framework (Chapter 7).
Issue Date:2019-10-23
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Ashley Hutson
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-03-02
Date Deposited:2019-12

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