Dr. Shannon Harper

CATEGORIES: Featured Faculty

USLS is happy to welcome Dr. Shannon Harper, our newest core faculty member!

While working toward my PhD in criminology, law, and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I discovered a research interest in violence against Latinas somewhat by accident. My area of research specialization is domestic violence (DV; i.e., physical, sexual, and emotional/psychological abuse, and/or stalking) and intimate partner homicide (IPH). DV is the primary catalyst for IPH offending and victimization. My work uses mixed-methods to examine how women who commit IPH often do so to protect themselves from repetitive and severe violence. This topic is close to my heart because women who kill their intimate partners are often survivors of terroristic abuse that limits their liberties making their lives unbearable and endangered.

One day while I was researching rates of female-perpetrated IPH, I stumbled upon an article that indicated that Latinas commit IPH at much lower rates than both African American and white women. This immediately caught my attention because 1) not much research exists on IPH offending among Latinas, and 2) research suggests that experiences of racism and structural deprivation should result in similar rates of IPH offending among Latinas and African American women. Women who kill their abusers often do so as a survival strategy when social, legal, medical, community, and/or governmental resources have failed to provide sufficient support to minimize suffering and effective alternatives and/or reduce/eliminate male violence, leaving them without options to maintain safety and livelihood. Latinas and African American women both experience this systemic failure much more so than white women (although in different ways), yet Latinas are less likely than African American women to kill their abusive partners. I thus endeavored to uncover an explanation for the unique low rate of IPH offending among Latinas who are abused, which is how I devote my time as an Assistant Professor of criminal justice studies in the Sociology Department here at ISU.

As I further researched DV among Latinas, I discovered that a variety of factors often shape their experiences of abuse, including structural factors such as poverty; institutional factors such as immigration enforcement; and cultural factors such as strong familial ties. These factors sometimes operate to reduce DV help-seeking among Latinas who are abused. I argue that these factors not only operate to uniquely diminish the likelihood of IPH offending and exacerbate the risk of IPH victimization among Latinas when compared to other racial/ethnic groups, but also disproportionately entrap Latinas within terroristic abusive relationships with limited options for assistance, escape, and/or survival. Given the lack of research on IPH among Latino populations overall, and even more pronounced dearth of research on DV and self-help homicide among Latinas, I am devoted to expanding these bodies of literature. With my research, I hope to assist community DV organizations in targeting and improving services for Latinas who are experiencing severe abuse and at risk of homicide.

My other research interests include homicide, justice system decision-making, and feminist criminology. My work examines how race/ethnicity, class and gender (as well as multiple other identities) intersect to shape women’s victimization and offending experiences and interactions with the criminal justice system. My published works can be found in numerous journals (e.g., Feminist Criminology, Sociology Compass, Journal of School Violence, etc.) and several edited volumes.

I am very excited to teach a new cross-listed course (U.S. Latino/a Studies Program/Sociology Department) beginning in the fall 2020 semester titled “Latinas and Victimization: Examining Survival Strategies and Justice” (CJST 360/USLS 360) where we will investigate DV and IPH among Latinas using an intersectional lens as well as other experiences of victimization, including sexual assault and human trafficking. I also teach an Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System (CJST 240) course and a Gender and Crime (CJST 406) course.

I love working at ISU and engaging with the amazing students here who do an excellent job of thoughtfully and critically examining complex issues in the criminal justice system. In my free time, I enjoy bingeing Netflix, spending time with my dog and friends, cooking delicious vegan food, attending inspiring cultural and artistic events, and playing Super Nintendo (I’m a nerd at heart!).