Dr. Helen Eigenberg will receive the CoraMae Richey Mann “Inconvenient Woman of the Year” Award on November 13 at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC). Eigenberg, professor and head of the UTC Department of Criminal Justice, will accept this national award in St. Louis, Missouri, from the Division on Women and Crime.
This award “recognizes the scholar/activist who has participated in publicly promoting the ideals of gender equality and women’s rights throughout society, particularly as it relates to gender and crime issues,” according to the selection committee.
Eigenberg was nominated by Dr. Joanne Belknap, sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Belknap documented Eigenberg’s success with campus, community and state leaders to secure better services for victims of violence against women on and off campus, leading to improvements for many survivors.
“Dr. Eigenberg played a key leadership role in establishing the Transformation Project at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This project serves to ensure offender accountability, prevent violence against women on campus, and provide direct services to survivors,” Belknap said.
As a result of the grant Eigenberg helped secure to establish the Transformation Project, the University developed a multidisciplinary coordinating council, representing campus and community groups. Belknap identified the participation of The Chattanooga Police Department, the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, the Partnership for Family & Children’s Services, the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and over 20 UTC offices.
Eigenberg also began the Green Dot Campaign, a social norms program to educate and engage the UTC campus community as it takes a stand against violence against women. Incoming students learn from the web-based module Dr. Eigenberg developed.
Belknap commended Eigenberg for her commitment to sustaining all these efforts.
“Because she is a truly inconvenient woman, Dr. Eigenberg was able to work with other campus leaders, to ensure that institutional funding was found to ensure that the grant funded direct services position was continued after the federal funding ended in 2007. State funds were secured in the UTC budget and also were used to fund the newly created Women’s Center that opened at UTC in fall 2008. This achievement is especially noteworthy given that Tennessee higher education has confronted some of the largest budget cuts in the history of state higher education,” Belknap said.
At the state level, Eigenberg worked to help establish the Tennessee State Victim Assistance Training Academy by partnering with the Tennessee State Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to get a three year federal grant to create this statewide program in 2005. Belknap explained that the first statewide academy was delivered at UTC in 2006 and the third cohort completed the program in the summer (2008).
Eigenberg also uses her scholarly expertise to advocate for prisoners (female and male) in their risk of rape while incarcerated. Belknap cited a quote from a 2005 issue of The Advocate, which published an article on prisoner rapes:
“Eigenberg, chair of criminal justice and legal assistant studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, published a well-known study of Texas corrections officers’ attitudes toward prison rape in 1989, and she has continued to present her findings around the country. The study found that 46% of officers believed that some inmates deserve to be raped, 34% believed rape victims are weak, and 15% believed that rape victims are gay. Similar victim blaming was found in a 1996 study of corrections officers in Nebraska. ‘Until you destigmatize things, people aren’t going to report,’ Eigenberg says. ‘This is a complex issue not amenable to a quick fix.’”
Eigenberg received her Ph.D. from Sam Houston State University in Texas.
“Personally, this award is a recognition of the blend of scholarship and activism which has always been important to me and my career,” Eigenberg said. “In terms of the Department of Criminal Justice, it is some recognition of the university, program and the engaged nature of the university.”