“Working at this university in India will enable me to suggest potential interventions, or at least give people a broader idea of what the problem actually looks like in a concrete way, because it’s difficult to design effective interventions without really knowing a place or its people,” Rangaswami says.
Like any good researcher, she has a plan
Her focus on intersectionality is something Rangaswami credits to SCU’s Sociology Department, where students achieve greater understanding of the social forces and structures that shape and influence societies, cultures, and individuals. “People have many, many different identities that influence how they see themselves but also how they are treated by others,” she says. “By having this intersectional framework [in the future study], I think we’ll get a more detailed picture of what violence actually looks like.” It’s her hope that this methodology could be picked up and adapted for other institutions of higher learning in the future.
She chose to place her study within a college landscape because of her familiarity with doing violence prevention at Santa Clara. Since starting her freshman year with the Violence Prevention Educators (VPE) group, Rangaswami has become co-president and grown student involvement from two to 20 educators. Operating out of SCU’s Wellness Center, VPE volunteers implement campus programming to educate students about interpersonal and sexual violence and abuse, harassment, stalking, and hazing, and refer people to different resources for help.
In India, Rangaswami says the study will start by asking participants to self-identify their gender and caste status. Once the initial data is collected, individuals will be brought in to share their stories one-on-one or within focus groups to get more personalized, qualitative data. “That allows us to get a better sense of stories and experiences as opposed to just cold hard statistics,” she says. “Something sociology has taught me is that both are really important to get the full picture of a problem.”
It’s Rangaswami’s hope that in giving people a safe space to tell their stories of harassment—stories that are often silenced because of societal shame and cultural taboo—that such violence will be easier for institutions to address and, eventually, shrink. “What can we do to support survivors, what can we do to promote conversations about violence and violence prevention in order to actually change the culture?” she asks. It starts by talking about it. “Silence allows a system to persist. … But if we can start getting comfortable with these conversations, that can open up a world of possibilities.”