Intelligent. Ambitious. Driven. These are the words assistant professor of sociology Shannon Harper uses to describe the research prowess of Amanda Larsen (’20 criminal justice studies), who recently earned a Dean’s High-Impact Award for Undergraduate Research from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for spring semester. This competitive grant allows undergraduate students to hone their critical thinking skills, preparing them for advanced degrees and future careers.
Focusing on domestic abuse services
Larsen and Harper’s research project focuses on how well domestic abuse services organizations address the needs of women of color, specifically Latinas, and individuals within the LGBTQ community.
“Amanda is very ambitious and driven to learn a lot about the challenges that minority women in Iowa face in relation to domestic violence, as well as the LGBTQ population and what they face in terms of accessing resources,” Harper said. “She’s really interested in inequities in the criminal justice system and the unequal access to resources and services certain groups encounter.”
A team effort
Harper will oversee Larsen’s work on the project, which includes researching the topic, developing an interview guide, conducting interviews with staff of three regional domestic violence services organizations and analyzing the data. Larsen has already completed the research portion of the project, and has discovered that Latina women face unique needs and difficulties when they attempt to flee abusive situations, including a fear of deportation, language barriers and financial constraints.
“Right now, the services offered are more cookie-cutter — they treat all women the same even though all women don’t have the same needs, especially culturally,” Larsen said. “Most of the literature focuses on white women, so that’s where the default line is for domestic abuse shelters.”
Harper is impressed with Larsen’s drive to move this research project forward.
“Amanda is very intelligent and she comes up with some great new ideas and innovative ways to look at issues,” Harper said. “I think I’ll learn as much from her as she learns from me.”
By the end of the semester, Larsen will compile her data into a paper, which she may present at upcoming conferences. Her work will also buoy Harper’s ongoing efforts to determine the challenges Latinas and other marginalized communities in rural areas face when they seek domestic abuse services, and how a lack of those services contribute to intimate partner homicide.
Larsen hopes the data she uncovers convinces domestic violence services organizations to adjust their services for women of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
“I want them to realize that different women have different needs,” Larsen said.
Following graduation from Iowa State this spring, Larsen plans to attend graduate school and continue researching victimization and feminist and queer criminology.
“I’m hoping to continue with research in general but particularly this project,” she said. “I want to see it through to completion.”
Read about Antonio Ball (’21 sociology, women’s and gender studies), who also received an LAS Dean’s High-Impact Award for Undergraduate Research.