Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Qi Sun

Committee Members

Qi Sun, Michelle Glowacki-Dudka, Courtney Cronley, Ashlee Anderson


Sexual violence continues to be a widespread issue for women, and many survivors of sexual assault face numerous challenges in higher education when they are working to achieve their educational goals. The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of how women adult learners who are also sexual assault survivors experience the university campus. Two research questions framed this study: 1) What types of spaces on university campuses engender feelings of safety for women adult learners who are sexual assault survivors? 2) How can universities create more inclusive learning spaces for women adult learners who are sexual assault survivors? I used Photovoice, a participatory action research method that seeks to promote critical dialogue and knowledge and reach policy makers through the use of photographs, targeted qualitative interviews, and photo exhibitions, to research this phenomenon. In this study, there were a total of seven participants, aged 22-35. Six of the participants were White, American students, and one participant was an Asian international student. Descriptive and emotive coding, along with thematic analysis were used to analyze the data. Three main themes emerged from the study: 1) safety, 2) community, and 3) wellbeing. Each theme was addressed in detail through photographs taken by the participants and excerpts from the participant interviews. This research contributes to the existing research on feminism and sexual violence, feminist geography, and sexual assault survivorship in higher education. Research suggests that several policy changes at the university, state, and national levels are needed, in addition to more safe spaces, in order to create a more inclusive and welcoming learning environment for survivors of sexual violence. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

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