Taking a bite out of crime

Taea Bonner ('20 criminal justice) participates in the Pitch Off Competition at the Iowa State Fair.

Taea Bonner never thought she would have the courage to stand on a stage in front of dozens of strangers and explain why she believes that a checklist chronicling the abusive experiences of young children could help thwart future criminal activity. But when presented with the opportunity to do just that, she said, “Why not?”

Bonner (’20 criminal justice) was one of 150 Iowa State undergraduate students, graduate students and alumni who participated in “The Great Iowa State Pitch Off: STANDING InnOVATION!” at the Iowa State Fair, held Aug. 8-18. The theme was a component of Iowa State’s mission to cultivate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and to provide resources and support for students, faculty and staff to turn their ideas into reality.

Making a difference

Last year, Bonner began working with Matt DeLisi, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professor and professor of sociology, on research related to the long-term effects of physical, sexual and emotional abuse on children. What Bonner learned was shocking.

“If a child is in a chaotic home and sexually abused, they are 290 times more likely to sexually abuse others,” she said. “Those numbers made me realize that early detection was really important, and so was getting children out of those situations and preventing them from doing it to someone else.”

Stopping the cycle is key. That’s why Bonner, the only Department of Sociology participant in the state fair competition, decided to overcome her timid nature, step on that stage and pitch her idea for the checklist.

“I was really nervous at first because I have a hard time speaking in front of a large group of people and I had never done it before. I’m pretty soft-spoken,” Bonner said.

Bright future

Bonner didn’t win the pitch competition, but she is focused on the bigger prize of developing sociological research that helps make the world a better place. First, however, she intends to earn a master’s and Ph.D. in sociology with a focus on criminal justice.

“I want to come up with new policies and procedures for handling human sex trafficking cases and train law enforcement agencies on how to handle those cases,” she said.

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