Tusty ten Bensel, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has been invited to present her research on sexual violence at the Harvard Kennedy School this fall.
For the past couple of years, ten Bensel has examined the collectivization process of violence during political conflicts, especially focusing on Bosnia and Sierra Leone.
During the 1990s, both areas endured major conflicts in which rape and other forms of sexual violence were endemic. Ten Bensel said that while sex crimes in those war-torn countries have been studied by other academic disciplines, contributions from criminology have been less numerous.
“I felt this was an area that needed to be looked at. We as criminologists bring something unique in understanding why and how these kind of crimes against humanity evolved,” ten Bensel said.
Ten Bensel said it was important to focus on why the offenders commit the crime in the first place and how it evolves, so that effective prevention strategies may be developed.
She is hopeful the research will produce “indicators” for when sexual violence could become a strong possibility in certain areas and raise policymaker’s awareness of which red flags to look for.
“Until we understand war-based crimes from all aspects, it will be hard to prevent in the future,” she said.
Ten Bensel will present at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict Sept. 2-3.
She received her Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her research interests include international collective sexual violence, self-concepts and future orientations of at-risk youth, prison reentry programs, and sex offender behavior and policies. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and worked with several federal, state and local agencies to evaluate programs intended to address prisoner reentry.