Fifty Years on the Police Reform Merry-Go-Round

This guest post is published around the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

By Robert E. Worden, co-author of Mirage of Police Reform: Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy

Officer-involved shootings have fallen out of the headlines, displaced by controversies revolving around the White House. But concerns about police conduct and interest in police reform remain palpable. The concerns bear a striking resemblance to those of 50 years ago, when the President’s Commission issued its report. In his book, Working the Street, Michael Brown described them thusly: “allegations of police brutality, race and class discrimination in law enforcement, violation of civil liberties and suppression of rights to protest government actions ….” He could as well have written these words in 2017.

In the last five decades, policing in the U.S. has evolved in many ways. Citizen oversight authorities have proliferated, administrative policies and reporting requirements have been further developed, and early intervention systems for police misconduct have been widely adopted. Federal authority to investigate and intervene into an alleged “pattern or practice” of civil rights violations by state or local police has accelerated the adoption of such reforms not only in more than a score of agencies, through consent decrees and settlement agreements, but also in an untold number of agencies that seek to avoid such intervention.

However, the policing issues of the 1960s remain unresolved in the 2010s. Part of the reason lies in the nature of policing and police organizations. Police work is not susceptible to valid and simple performance metrics. Outcomes – crime levels, disorder, fear of crime, public satisfaction – are affected by many factors other than what police do. Outputs – arrests, tickets – are indicators of activity but not of quality service. A consensus on what constitutes good police work does not exist, so even when officers’ behavior can be observed, conclusive judgments about performance are elusive. How, then, are we to determine whether police are meeting public needs or expectations?

In the absence of truly informative performance indicators, communities and their representatives judge whether their police departments bear the hallmarks of a properly structured and managed police organization. Does the agency have clear lines of hierarchical authority? Does it have – and make transparent – appropriate policies and procedures? Has it adopted (some form of) community policing? Is there a provision for civilian review of complaints against the police? Does the department train its officers in, e.g., cultural awareness, or procedural justice? Are officers outfitted with body-worn cameras?

These structural features may satisfy the expectations of public officials and interested publics, but we typically have no way of knowing whether they have the desired effects on police performance. Even when independent, scientific research is executed, the results are subject to question and debate. Structural reforms may serve to reinforce (or reclaim) police legitimacy, but they tend to be no more than loosely coupled to street-level practice, leaving unresolved the issues that prompted the reform.

Are we doomed to repeating this cycle of reform? Only so long as it takes to remove from street-level police work the ambiguity and uncertainty that has been intrinsic to the situations that we expect the police to handle.

Mirage of Police Reform by Robert E. Worden and Sarah J. McLean is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book as a free download.


Robert E. Worden is Director of the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany, SUNY.


The (Chronic) Crisis of Legitimacy in Policing

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18, and in relation to this year’s ASC theme of Crime, Legitimacy and Reform: Fifty years since the President’s Commission #ASCPhilly

By Nikki Jones, author of The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption (forthcoming June 2018)

Fifty years ago, in the wake of urban uprisings across the country, the vast majority of which were sparked by a negative police encounter, President Lyndon Johnson charged The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to answer three seemingly simple questions: What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done?

The five problem areas identified then are familiar now: 1) police operations and misconduct in ghetto neighborhoods, 2) police practices that failed to protect Black residents, 3) the lack of effective and transparent grievance processes to report officer misconduct, 4) the lack of clear policy guidelines to direct officer behavior, especially use of force, and 5) the lack of community support for law enforcement.

In answering the President’s charge, the report did not shy away from the topic of race and racism. Instead, the report linked the problem of policing to histories of racist violence (from which millions of Black Americans fled during the Great Migration) and racist housing policies in American cities that turned ghetto neighborhoods into tinderboxes for the urban uprisings the Commission was called on to explain and, ultimately, prevent in the future.

In addition to highlighting the role that systemic racism played in the problems between the police and Black Americans at the time, the report also drew attention to a culture of racism among police departments.

All in all, the report (along with similar state and local reports of the time) had a dramatic impact on policing. Today, America’s largest cities are home to the most well-funded, well-trained, and professionalized law enforcement departments in our nation’s history. State and local law enforcement agencies receive historically unmatched support from the federal government and a vast network of researchers and academics that supports the development and implementation of policing innovations in cities across the country.

While today’s law enforcement agencies are stronger than they have ever been, they are also, if we are to believe some leaders in law enforcement, the most fragile when it comes to responding to charges of racism. This supposed fragility is evidenced in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that the increased scrutiny of law enforcement (or, it seems, any scrutiny at all) is bad for officer morale as well as other calls to quiet (or quash) serious discussion of the ways that race and racism influence policing today.

Fifty years ago, incisive critiques of law enforcement led to monumental changes in policing. Fifty years later, it is clear that much work remains, including the need to acknowledge the historical role that policing has played in enforcing the racial order and reproducing racial inequality in the U.S. – not just in the South and not just decades ago.

Today, the potential for such discussions is limited by the fragility framework and color-blind criminological sound bites (e.g., the common refrain that there are more police contacts in Black neighborhoods because that is where the crime is) that demonstrate a resistance to discussing anything but implicit racism in policing.

Where will that leave us fifty years from now?


Nikki Jones is Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-City Violence. 


Not Beyond Racism: Teens Talk about Violence and the “Jacked Up” U.S. System

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

By Katherine Irwin, co-author of Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies 

Like many of us, I remember the Obama years fondly. At the beginning of his first term in office, phrases like “the post-racist” society and “America’s color-blindness” were bandied about in the media with a sense that some significant change in U.S. race relations was underway. I can even remember some of my colleagues who were writing about racism in the criminal justice system being somewhat perturbed that their work had instantly become passé after Obama was elected. Then came Trump, neo-racism, and neo-nationalism. Race and racism are squarely back on the table of discussion. It seems that we are not a post-racist society after all.

Given the quickly changing discourses about race and racism, my co-author Karen Umemoto and I thought it was time to illuminate important nuances of America’s racist history as they are felt and experienced by groups of teens who are often overlooked. In our book, Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies, we allow girls and boys to tell us about racism, harsh criminal justice punishments, and the use of violence to enact vengeance. Teens in this study spoke of the U.S. as an inherently racist country – a place where the police, teachers, and school administrators were out to punish them and where they had few chances to thrive. The fact that most of the teens who acted violently in this study had at least one family member who had been incarcerated reinforced the idea that the “U.S. system” was much more likely to target than to help the teens in our study.

The story that the teens shared during the nine years that I spent researching violence in public high schools in Hawaii taught me some lessons about using retributive measures to solve deep seated problems in the U.S. As we know, America’s reliance on harsh criminal justice sanctions over the past few decades has made us the most incarcerating industrialized nation in the world. What I learned during this study with Pacific Islander teens is that the punitive turn in the U.S. has also left lasting legacy in the psyche of many young people. Not only did these teens feel the sting of poverty, racism, and political neglect, but they also came to avoid adults and adult institutions in fear of punishment.

There is also good news revealed in Jacked Up and Unjust. High school staff and community leaders provided extensive support services to youth during this study. Kids who started out their school careers as tough fighters, willing to “throw-down” at the slightest provocation, eventually became less violent and more engaged in school because of support services. The takeaway lesson from Jacked Up and Unjust is that young people who behave violently are not headed for a lifetime of pathology, hate, and brutality. Marshaling services and providing spaces for youth to feel connected, cared for, and listened to can change lives. This book instructs us all about how to provide such support for teens.

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Attend Katy’s author meets critic session on Friday, November 17, 2:00 to 3:20pm, Marriott, Room 502, 5th Floor as well as her other sessions too. And learn more about Katy and Karen’s work with teens in Hawaii.


Katherine Irwin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa. She is the co-author of Jacked Up and Unjust with Karen Umemoto and co-autho of Beyond Bad Girls: Gender, Violence, and Hype with Meda Chesney-Lind.


Young and At Risk: Canada’s First Nation Women and California’s Latinas

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration

Tamara Lynn Chipman, missing since 2005.

Across Canada there has been tens of thousands of missing first nations women like Tamara Lynn Chipman. A similar pattern has occurred near American reservations as well as places like Juarez, Mexico where scores of women as young as 14 years old have been kidnapped, raped, murdered and never returned to their families. Most of these women have received little media coverage, scant support from criminal justice institutions and are seldom found alive, if at all.

As an incoming faculty member in the sociology department at the University of Toronto, a new resident to Canada, and a Chicano feminist I was stunned by these stories. During the last ten years, there have been an increase in documentaries on this issue, scores of independent efforts to find these people, but there has been little government support to successfully find these women or to curtail these disappearances. As I began to read about this issue I was baffled by how similar the stories of these youth compare to the experiences of justice involved Latinas that I interviewed in Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance and Wraparound Incarceration. In this book, I address the multiple home factors that contribute to Latinas in Southern California ending up behind bars and the challenges they face when attempting to return to a “normal life.” I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork.

Identical Challenges

Despite the roughly 4,048 kilometers between my field site in Southern California and the greater Toronto Area, young at risk Latinas and First Nations women experience almost identical challenges when attempting to survive to adulthood. They must negotiate abuse in the home, a lack of social services (even in Canada), the ever-present threat of sexual violence, and the looming possibility of ending up behind bars. Additionally, schools, community centers and even well intentioned adults cannot seem to provide them the tools they need to avoid victimization and to be successful. This—and what seems to be a lack of interest or just plain oversight from various institutions—pushes young women to run away, hitchhike large distances, and participate in other high-risk behavior. As a result, thousands of young native women like Tamara eventually disappear or end up murdered on the side of rural roads across North America.

As an academic, feminist and victim of childhood sexual assault, I hope that we as a society can find a way to stop the continued attack on women and more broadly on all marginalized and oppressed groups. Additionally, I hope we can find these First Nations women and help prevent their disappearance in the first place. It is high time that we make marginalized young women the focal point of our efforts.

Moving forward there are a few simply things caring individuals and policy makers can do to help these young women:

  • First, introduce safe space where youth can report victimization without the fear of retribution.
  • Second, encourage schools and community centers to provide mental health services to anyone in need and free of charge.
  • And finally, make sure that all marginalized people including First Nations women and Latinas have access to quality K-12 education, three meals a day, clean water and a safe place to sleep.

Taken together, this will help address the main issues that encourage young women to leave their homes in the first place.

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Attend Jerry’s author meets critics session on Friday, November 17, 8:00 to 9:20am, Marriott, Room 406, 4th Floor as well as his other sessions. And learn more about the book from Jerry.  


Jerry Flores is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto.


Disparities in Perspectives on Addiction

This guest post is published during the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

by Rashi K. Shukla, author of Methamphetamine: A Love Story

Why do we seem to care more about some than others when it comes to addiction and drug abuse? It is a haunting question that mirrors the realities of today. Nationally, attention to opioids have led to calls for treatment and increases in funding. An estimated 91 people die each day as a result of their addiction. Federally, funds were recently allocated to expand efforts to battle the problem. While those who die as a result of their opioid abuse are often referred to as victims of the drug, there is a disconnect when it comes to how we think about, and more importantly, how we respond to, addiction in the U.S.

Drug addiction is not new. It has plagued individuals and communities for decades. Though policies are in the midst of change, the U.S. has been engaged in a War on Drugs against those who use, abuse, and become addicted to illicit drugs for more than 30 years. Large proportions of the U.S. prison population are incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Take into account other aspects of the system (e.g., probation and parole), and the numbers only increase. What has changed? Why is it that today, many in society are willing to view those who become addicted to certain drugs, such as opioids, with more empathy and concern than those who abuse other illicit drugs?

As someone who has studied methamphetamine for a decade, I have come face-to-face with the demonization, criminalization, and stigmatization that forever follows those who fell prey to addiction and the accompanying lifestyle. While their levels of engagement in criminal and deviant lifestyles may differ from those of suburban drug users, at the end of the day, their addictions were not that different. And yet, the type of drug that one becomes addicted to makes all of the difference in our views and responses. It seems that compassion and calls for treatment that dominate the national discussion on addiction are not equally aimed at all addicts.

Methamphetamine devastates lives and communities, and yet, there is no sympathetic lens for addicts of meth and other illicit drugs. Some who get labeled with felony convictions related to their meth addiction will tell you, “it’s a life sentence.” For some, convictions and addictions are negative labels that stick.

There is a need for a shift in perspective and policy, not just for opioids, but for all who become impacted by drug addiction. Though the increased attention is a step in the right direction, to overlook the devastation being caused by other drugs is a disservice at best.

Those who manage to escape addiction, be it to opioids, methamphetamine, or other drugs, face numerous challenges in the roads that lie ahead. The need for greater understanding and increased resources for all, not just those who use certain types of drugs. Failing to respond more effectively to all of those who are burdened by addictions will only exacerbate the problem.

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See Rashi during her Author Meets Critics session on Thursday, November 16, 9:30 to 10:50am, Marriott, Room 411, 4th Floor.

And hear more about the book from Rashi.


Rashi K. Shukla is Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Oklahoma. She received her PhD in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and has served as lead investigator of a multi-method study of the methamphetamine problem for more than a decade. Her research, which focuses on offender decision-making and the evolution of drug problems, has been presented in numerous forums, both nationally and internationally.


Criminology in a World Adrift

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

By Jeff Ferrell, author of the forthcoming Drift: Illicit Mobility and Uncertain Knowledge (March 2018)

Over the past few weeks two international tragedies have made the headlines. In Bangladesh, the number of Rohingya Muslim refugees driven from Myanmar by a military campaign of physical and sexual terror has now reached one million. Trapped on a strip of muddy land, welcome neither in Myanmar nor in Bangladesh, the refugees talk of being ‘lost in time.’ Meanwhile, Australia announces plans to close its primary detention center for refugees and asylum seekers – a center located not in Australia itself but in Papua New Guinea. There, refugees talk of ‘feeling lost and drifting’ after four years’ confinement. As Australia and Papua New Guinea argue over responsibility for the refugees, an Australian politician agrees that the refugees ‘are stuck in legal and physical limbo.’

Of course these aren’t the only groups adrift from citizenship and legal protection, adrift in time and space, adrift while made to move or made to stand still. Countless Central Americans refugees ride El Tren de la Muerte (the Death Train), a U.S.-bound freight train, up through Mexico. Millions of Syrian refugees, remnants of Syria’s ‘lost generation,’ flood across Europe. Africans crowd rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean, only to find themselves bounced between European borders. Chinese officials work to move 250 million rural residents into Chinese cities – cities where homeless rural migrant workers already occupy abandoned air-defense tunnels and shelter in McDonald’s restaurants.

So pervasive is this global dislocation that the defining trajectory of the contemporary world seems not so much up or down as simply adrift. For North Americans and Europeans this trajectory also plays out, not just in faraway headlines but in their own daily lives. Here urban economic development predicated on spatial privatization and high-end consumerism displaces residents from once-affordable housing and creates a vast army of part-time service workers and temporary employees. The legal regulation of these urban areas in turn operates around risk management and the policing of transient populations, with the razing of refugee and homeless encampments, the use of banishment and dispersal orders, and the aggressive ‘moving-on’ of street populations. Contemporary urban development spawns social dislocation, and the legal controls meant to protect urban development from transient populations serve to make such populations only more transient.

To make sense of all this, criminologists will need theoretical models that can account for drift’s intertwined social, spatial, and legal dynamics. They’ll need methods as fluid and flexible as are the groups to be studied. Perhaps most importantly they’ll need epistemologies attuned to the inherent ambiguity and uncertainty of drift. And in this work of disciplinary reinvention they can find assistance – from drifters themselves. Drifting certainly brings with it the profound pain of dislocation and loss. But as contemporary drifters themselves know and put into practice, drifting also forces open new ways of seeing and living in the world, offering dangerous disorientations that are also critical, cosmopolitan, and alive to possibility.


Jeff Ferrell is Professor of Sociology at Texas Christian University and Visiting Professor of Criminology at University of Kent. He is the author of Crimes of Style, Tearing Down the Streets, and Empire of Scrounge, and co-author of Cultural Criminology: An Invitation.


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If you’re attending American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia from November 15 – 18, make sure to visit UC Press at booth #27 for a 40% discount. Our titles act as a catalyst for change, inspiring students, scholars, and practitioners alike to think critically, produce and consume research responsibly, and advocate for social justice.

See our recent offerings in Criminology, with books useful for your research as well as for course adoptions. See you at #ASCPhilly!


Simmering in Hot Water: The Importance of Context in Explaining Attitudes across the Globe

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

By Amy Adamczyk, author of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe

On November 5, 2017 a man walked into a Baptist Church in rural Texas and opened fire on the congregants in the middle of a service. Twenty-six people were killed, about half of them children. Only a week prior, another senseless mass murder had captured the nation’s attention when a man drove a truck through a bike path in New York City, killing eight people.

And just one month earlier a gunman had open fired on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas. Mass shootings in particular and gun deaths in general have historically been much higher in the U.S. than in other wealthy nations.

Many Americans feel that it is normal to be able to obtain firearms so effortlessly. A lot of residents, including myself, grew up with family and friends who had guns, albeit mostly rifles for hunting. The environment in which we are raised and live our lives has a powerful role in influencing what we feel is normal. But, cross-national data show how different the United States is from other countries.

In my recent book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe, I investigate another issue where people’s views across the world differ considerably. While Americans are relatively supportive of homosexuality, just 10 years ago the majority of Americans opposed same-sex marriage. Currently, LGBT relations are criminalized in over 70 nations and in ten countries they can be punished with death. Additionally, there are many nations including Poland, South Korea and Israel, where only a minority of people feel that homosexuality is acceptable.

Why are there such dramatic differences? My book shows that a big part of the divide in acceptance of homosexuality is related to the degree of economic development, democratic governance, the dominant religion, and religious engagement. The way these forces shape attitudes interact in complex ways with a nation’s unique history and where countries are geographically located.   Regardless of personal attributes, the characteristics of the environments in which people live shape their feelings about a host of issues.

The interesting thing about contextual forces is that we often do not know they are there. It’s only when we look at cross-national data that we can see how similar or different we are.

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Attending ASC? See the author meets critics session on Wednesday, November 15 at 9:30am.

And read more from Amy regarding why some countries disapprove of homosexuality and Donald Trump and homosexuality.


Amy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.


Representational Power of International Criminal Courts

This post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

Joachim Savelsberg recently spoke at a symposium on power in international criminal justice. The event, held in Florence, Italy, and organized by the Centre for International Law Research and Policy and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, included judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as well as representatives from the United Nations and NGO experts.

Savelsberg argued that international human rights courts hold substantial representational power, defined as the probability to impress on a global public, even against resistance and competing narratives, an understanding of mass violence as a form of criminal violence. The argument is urgent as international criminal justice institutions are under fire from many sides. Most recently, Burundi was the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute on which the ICC is based. Savelsberg presented empirical evidence from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to support his argument.

His analyses of the Darfur case show that international criminal justice institutions and their supporters in civil society are engaged in struggles with competing forces. The latter include diplomats who privilege representations that open up spaces for mediation and negotiation, and humanitarian aid organizations advancing narratives that allow for collaboration with the perpetrator state in the interest of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet, international criminal justice representations dominate in media reporting in all eight countries under investigation. They prevail over frames of the violence as armed conflict or as a humanitarian emergency, especially after the onset of institutional intervention. Sources of this dominance likely include control over rituals, access to channels of communication, and legitimacy based on procedure.

The representative power of human rights courts faces constraints, however, that color their message. They include the court’s focus on the role of individual actors (at the neglect of structural forces); limiting evidentiary rules; neglect of historical context; and a simplifying binary logic of guilty versus not guilty. They further include the need to satisfy institutions and states that exert power by controlling funding and the statutory basis of the court. The ICC also needs to be on good terms with permanent members of the UN Security Council on which it partially depends for the referral of cases and for enforcement action. The result of such tension is a treacherous journey between Scylla of formal-rational justice and Charybdis of practical concerns in the highly politicized environment of international relations. Finally, international criminal justice depends on the diffusion of its representations through mass media that follow their own rules of the game. Some of these rules induce selectivity.

Despite such constraints, theoretical arguments suggest, and Savelsberg’s analysis documents, substantial representational power of international criminal courts. Will this power advance a reduction of international human rights crimes, long-term pacification in the realm of international relations? When powerful leaders with responsibility for mass violence are repeatedly represented as criminal perpetrators, international criminal justice may then become imbued with symbolic power. A resulting broad-based understanding of such leaders as criminal perpetrators could quite possibly contribute toward a diminished role of naked violence in the international realm. Yet, the jury is still out, as they say—and that jury includes those engaged in continued scholarship.

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During the ASC conference on Thursday, November 16, see Joachim discuss the Punitive Term and the Justice Cascade. And see Joachim’s previous work on genocide from Armenia to Darfur, the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the cultural consequences of international criminal justice intervention.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book as a free download.


The Dark Side of Technology and Separation/Divorce Violence Against Women: Image-Based Sexual Abuse

By Walter S. DeKeseredy, co-author of Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women

Ample scientific evidence supports the claim that technology is routinely used to commit a variety of crimes, such as the distribution of child pornography. Yet, until recently the bulk of the research on the “dark side” of new technologies either ignored or overlooked the fact that the Internet is now a tool used by many men to seriously harm the women who leave them or who want to leave them.

This is one of the key reasons why Molly Dragiewicz, Martin D. Schwartz and I wrote Abusive Endings. Image-based sexual abuse is one of a number of new electronic means of inflicting pain that we devote considerable attention to. Often referred to as revenge porn, there is a huge worldwide audience for such imagery. Regardless of which term or definition one prefers, the pictures and videos are typically made by men with the consent of the women they were intimately involved with, but then distributed online without their consent following women’s termination of a relationship.

Few studies to date have actually measured the extent of image-based sexual abuse, but some researchers estimate that there are now more than 3,000 online sites and the bulk of perpetrators who post on them are male ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, and ex-lovers.

The harm-done by image-based sexual abuse is often irreparable as demonstrated by Holly Jacobs’ experiences. She is the founder of the advocacy group End Revenge Porn and her boyfriend hacked into her Facebook profile and posted sexually explicit images for relatives and friends to see prior to disseminating more material through revenge porn sites and e-mailing material to her employers. Revenge porn sites were then used by groups of men to harass and abuse her. Consequently, she had to legally change her name, stop going to academic conferences, change jobs and her phone number, and endure other major traumatic hardships.

This electronic type of separation/divorce violence will likely get worse. There is no particular reason to believe that men are reducing their use of sexist, racist, homophobic comments, or verbal attacks. Certainly, this is nothing new. For years, men have being making these remarks in public places. The difference is that today that the same comments, together with hurtful sexual imagery, can gain a wider audience than a few men who happen to be present. Thousands of people can view pictures that were posted without men’s ex-partners’ consent and they will stay on the Internet forever. With the constant stream of new technologies, it is easy for gender-related offenses inflicted by some new invention to take place.

There is, however, some good news. At the time of writing this blog, 36 states have revenge porn laws. Of those that do not, many respond to image-based sexual abuse through other criminal statutes such as laws forbidding harassment, extortion, and stalking. The creation of laws targeting image-based sexual abuse may serve as a powerful deterrent and thus reduce much pain and suffering.


Walter S. DeKeseredy is Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Sciences, Director of the Research Center on Violence, and Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University. In addition to being the co-author of Abusive Endings with Molly Dragiewicz and Martin D. Schwartz, he is also co-author of Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America with Martin D. Schwartz. Walter has received major awards from divisions of the American Society of Criminology for his work on violence against women.