Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Diane Price Herndl, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Lennon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Mooney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.


Empathy, Pedagogy, Post Modern Literature, Rape Narratives, Sexual Assault, Teaching


The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is addressed in part by a mandate that all college students complete some form of sexual assault education. While current education programs have proven successful in teaching bystander education and dispelling rape myths, they have not proven to increase reporting rates while also decreasing the number of sexual assaults. This dissertation makes a pedagogical argument for a new approach to sexual assault and prevention education at the college level that would use literary rape narratives to dispel sexual assault myths, teach trauma theory principles, and address intersectional aspects of rape culture with the ultimate goal of instilling and inciting empathy for rape victims. Repeat offenders make up more than 90% of rapes and assaults. This is possible because only a small number of assaults are reported and thus many offenders are never apprehended. The main reason victims do not report is due to fear of further victimization and stigmatization. The course proposed in this dissertation seeks to combat underreporting by creating a community that believes and supports victims. Through purposeful and guided interaction with literature as exemplified in this dissertation, students will identify and combat existing implicit bias against victims, become trauma informed witnesses, and learn how to respond to victims of sexual assault with empathy and care. Informed by dozens of studies on the effectiveness of using literature to teach affective empathy, this dissertation includes literary analysis of four novels that include rape in order to illustrate how such a class would work.