Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kieran Killeen

Second Advisor

Thomas Macias


Rape culture has roots in our gendered history of the United States which manifests itself on college campuses as well. Attending college has been found to be the riskiest time for women in terms of sexual assault, as up to 1 in 4 women may experience some type of sexual assault or attempt during their collegiate years. This study explored how one college campus, the University of Vermont (UVM), has organizational policies, procedures and values that are perceived to support rape culture on campus.

Guided by critical feminist theory as its epistemological foundation, this qualitative study uses an applied thematic analysis to explore how organizational conditions at UVM help support a rape culture. Ten participants were recruited for the study via snowball sampling. Each participant was identified as current or former staff member, or student at UVM. Each was interviewed using semi-structured interviews. The interviews were analyzed using an applied thematic analysis. Six overarching themes were discovered in the data. Participants identified a series of student cultures like alcohol abuse and a hook-up culture that together support risk taking and contribute to rape culture. Respondents noted a variety of organizational pressures, both external and internal, to the University that were intertwined with their descriptions of rape culture. Pressures from outside the organization tended to be regulative in nature and included specific references to federal or state law, or court actions. Organizational pressures from inside the organization were also regulative in nature, but typically internal policies, procedures and practices were identified. For example, at UVM there are a variety of departments whose policies and procedures are specifically designed to address sexually based violence on campus. These include offices like the Police or the Center for Student Conduct. Interviewees spoke at length about how policies and procedures designed to increase safety and responsibility, can actually contribute to perceived support for rape cultures on campus. Examples include safeguards around alcohol consumption on campus, lengthy Title IX adjudication processes when assaults occur, public image protection, and institutional silencing of victims. Taken together these findings describe a variety of organizational conditions that work to support and perpetuate rape culture, at the same time concerted efforts are made to reduce the likelihood of harm and to promote safety on college campuses. Findings from this study can be used by UVM and other higher education organizations to address organizational structures, actions and policies that have contributed to rape culture.



Number of Pages

179 p.