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Jennifer K Wesely


Criminology and Criminal Justice | College of Arts & Sciences

Areas of Expertise

Gender, Inequality and Justice, Intimate Partner Violence, At-Risk Populations of Girls & Women including Homeless Women, Sex Workers and Ex-Offenders, Canine-Inmate Rehabilitation Programming


Ph.D. Arizona State University


I received my Ph.D. in 2001 from the School of Justice Studies at Arizona State University and joined the faculty in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of North Florida in 2004. I typically teach graduate and undergraduate courses about family violence, criminal law, women and crime and qualitative research methods.

Recently I taught a Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) course called "The Role of Canines in Inmate Rehabilitation" that included work with the "Canines with Careers" program at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, and the TAILS (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills) program locally in Jacksonville. The UNF course was featured on Action News Jax and in Jacksonville print media, as well in a Best Friends story:


Teaching is a passion and I was honored to receive the 2008-2009 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award and the 2012-2013 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award at UNF. In my research, I investigate marginalized and at-risk groups, in particular sex workers, homeless women and ex-offenders, framing their experiences in ways that challenge or complicate typical assertions about these stigmatized populations. Though I emphasize the "lived experience" of each individual, I locate these experiences within structural ideologies and inequalities. Most recently I have been conducting research with incarcerated men who are participants in the Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills (TAILS) program. My scholarship is largely qualitative, the data being derived from in-depth interviewing and focus groups. Qualitative research is particularly useful in acquiring rich, meaningful data that unearth layers of a person's identity and experience.

My first book, entitled Hard Lives, Mean Streets: Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women, was published in May 2010 by Northeastern University Press. For this research, my co-authors and I were originally awarded a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant for several years to examine relationships between violence and homelessness for temporarily sheltered women in Florida's four largest metropolitan areas: Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Our book was derived from these results, which includes data from about 800 surveys as well as in-depth interviews with a subset of this population. Importantly, this research reveals the major role that violence plays in women becoming and remaining homeless.

Over the years, my research among populations of women who worked as exotic dancers or who were homeless revealed a consistent set of dynamics that I began to call the "continuum of sexualization." My 2012 book Being Female: The Continuum of Sexualization, crafts the theoretic argument that all girls experience harmful sexualization, and these experiences fall across a range of dimensions and dynamics. In the book, I seek to answer questions like: how we can stop failing our girls and women in the ways I describe? I identify key areas where we do not succeed at protecting girls from risks in society and relate these areas to strategies to counteract such shortcomings. Entitled Being Female: The Continuum of Sexualization (2002) more information can be found here:

I work closely with community agencies, and received UNF Outstanding Faculty Community Engaged Scholarship Award in 2019 and the UNF Outstanding Service Award and the Susan B. Anthony Award, both in 2014.  I was the Featured Speaker for the Women's Center of Jacksonville (WCJ) 2013 Speaker Series. My talk, entitled "Images are Closer than they Appear: The Sexualization of Women and Girls" was based on my 2012 book. This event was a fundraiser for WCJ, a community nonprofit organization. I was also an invited speaker for the 2015 See the Girl Summit, hosted by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville ( Other agencies for which I have presented my research in invited capacities include the Montgomery Correctional Center, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Mayor's Sexual Assault Advisory Council Annual Symposium, and various television news outlets and local and national radio programs. A live NPR event used my Being Female book as a starting point for a twenty-minute interview segment with listeners calling in to ask me questions, introduced as "Expert on sexual violence says we need to change how we talk to our daughters and sons":


My most recent research involves focus groups with locally incarcerated men who participate in the TAILS program (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills). TAILS participants are paired with rescue dogs, who live with them and learn obedience training before graduating. I am interested in the ways that "toxic" or "criminogenic" masculinity is potentially interrupted by participation in TAILS and the ways the men are transformed, not just rehabilitated. Regional and national news have discussed some of my findings, which have also been featured in a documentary:


Interviewed for the Character in Custody documentary (from 36:50):




Outstanding Faculty Community Engaged Scholarship Award, UNF. 2019


Community Scholars Program, 10th cohort. Center for Community-Based Learning, Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost & Vice President, University of North Florida. 2018-2019


Outstanding Service Award, UNF. 2014


Susan B. Anthony Award, UNF. 2014


Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, UNF. 2012


Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, UNF. 2009



Grants and Contracts Awarded

2019-2020  Research and Creative Activity Travel Award, $1749.68, Dean’s Leadership Council, College of Arts and Sciences, University of North Florida


2019-2021 Center for Community Based Learning Travel Award, $3000, University of North Florida


2018-2019 Principal Investigator, “Juveniles in the TAILS Program,” Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), $7,466.47.


2018-2021 Qualitative Data Analyst, Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI): State Attorney's Office for Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit, U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, with Dr. Holly Miller. $35,483.


2018-2019 Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) award, Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost & Vice President, University of North Florida. "The Role of Canines in Inmate Rehabilitation," Summer 2019, $14,000.


2016-2017 SMART (Student Mentored Academic Research Team) Grant Award, Office of Undergraduate Research, University of North Florida. Project: "The Content of Campus Safety Alerts: An Exploratory Study" with undergraduate C. Smith and faculty Dr. E. Brown and Dr. C. Phills


2015 Faculty Scholarship Development Grant, Academic Affairs, Office of the Provost & Vice President, UNF. Project: "Criminal Pathways, Incarceration and Self-Sufficiency: Experiences of Women Ex-Offenders in a Jacksonville Community Re-Entry Program"


2014-2015 Research Enhancement Plan (REP) Award, College of Arts & Sciences, UNF. Project: "Women's Re-Entry: Self-Sufficiency after Incarceration."


2012-2013  Research Enhancement Plan (REP) Award, College of Arts & Sciences, UNF. Project: "Interventions and Re-Offending Among Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators: A Qualitative and Quantitative Approach"


2002-2004  Co-Principal Investigator, "The Experience of Violence in the Lives of Florida's Homeless Women," National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Grant # 2002WGBX0013, $326,034.  Principal Investigator: James D. Wright.

Publications & Presentations



2012  Wesely, Jennifer K.  Being Female: The Continuum of Sexualization.  Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.                                                                                                          


2010  Jasinski, Jana, Wesely, Jennifer K., Mustaine, Elizabeth & Wright, James D. Hard Lives, Mean Streets: Violence in the lives of homeless women.  Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.                              


Refereed Journal Articles and Book Chapters (* denotes student co-author)


2020  Wesely, Jennifer K. Skimming the surface or digging deeper: The role of emotion in students' reflective journals during an experiential criminal justice course. Journal of Experiential Education. Advance online publication:


2020  Wesely, Jennifer K., Brown, Elizabeth R. & Phills, Curtis E. Words matter: A qualitative content analysis of campus crime alerts and considerations for best practices. Journal of American College Student Health. Advance online publication:


2019 Wesely, Jennifer K. When gender goes to the dogs: Perceptions of masculinity and identity change among male participants in a prison-based animal program. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 58(8), 696-719.


2018 Wesely, Jennifer K. & Dewey, Susan. Confronting gendered pathways to incarceration: Considerations for reentry programming. Social Justice 45(1), 57-82.


2018  Wesely, Jennifer K. "Women make that world go 'round": The role of women's sexual capital in the gendered scaffolding of street life. Sexuality Research & Social Policy 16(4), 419-433.


2018 Wesely, Jennifer K. & Miller, J. Mitchell. Justice system bias perceptions of the dually marginalized: Observations from a sample of women ex-offenders. Victims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-Based Research, Policy and Practice. 14(4), 451-470.


2018  Wesely, Jennifer K. Co-constituting narrative: The role of researcher identity bids in qualitative interviews with women ex-offenders. Criminal Justice Studies 31(3), 213-229.


2017   Dewey, Susan, Wesely, Jennifer K., Epler, Rhett, Zare, Bonnie, Connolly, Catherine & Bratton, Rosemary. Ontologies of blame and the cultural value of accountability: Formerly incarcerated women's narratives. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 42(1), 88-104.


2017  Wesely, Jennifer K., Dzoba, Nicholas P.*, Miller, Holly Ventura & Rasche, Christine E. Mentoring at-risk youth: an examination of strain and mentor response strategies. American Journal of Criminal Justice 42(1), 198-217.


2015 Wesely, Jennifer K. "Negotiating identity as a qualitative researcher: The impact of studying marginalized populations in criminology." In Handbook of Qualitative Criminology, edited by Heith Copes & J. Mitchell Miller (pp. 144-156). London: Routledge.


2014 Wesely, Jennifer K. "Women's homelessness and the role of violence: Not just a 'personal problem.'"  In Understanding Diversity: Celebrating Difference, Challenging Inequality, edited by Claire Renzetti & Raquel Bergen (pp. 39-52).  Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


2011 McCray, Kristan*, Wesely, Jennifer K., Rasche, Christine E.  Rehab retrospect: Former prostitutes and the (re)construction of deviance.  Deviant Behavior 32, 743-768.


2009 Wesely, Jennifer K. & Wright, James D.  From the inside out: Efforts by homeless women to disrupt cycles of crime and violence.  Women and Criminal Justice 19(3), 217-234.


2009  Wesely, Jennifer K. "Mom said we had a Money-Maker": Sexualization and survival contexts among homeless women. Symbolic Interaction 32(2), 91-105.


2008 Wesely, Jennifer K. "Sex Work."  In Battleground: Women and Gender, Vol. 2, edited by Amy Lind and Stephanie Brzuzy (pp. 540-549).  Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing. 


2007 Jasinski, Jana, Wesely, Jennifer K., Mustaine, Elizabeth & Wright, James D.  "Childhood victimization as a precursor to violence among adult homeless women."  In Child Poverty in America, edited by David Maume & Barbara Arrighi (pp. 182-195).  Westport, CT: Praeger.


2006 Wesely, Jennifer K. Considering the context of women's violence: Gender, lived experiences and cumulative victimization.  Feminist Criminology, 1 (4), 303-328.


2006 Wesely, Jennifer K. Negotiating myself: The impact of studying female exotic dancers on a feminist researcher.  Qualitative Inquiry, 12 (1), 146-162.                                                                   


2005 Wesely, Jennifer K. and Wright, James D.  The pertinence of partners: Examining intersections between women's homelessness and their adult relationships.  American Behavioral Scientist, 48 (8). 1082-1101.


2005  Wesely, Jennifer K. "Where am I going to stop?" In Readings In Deviant Behavior, 4th Edition, edited by Thomas Calhoun and Alex Thio (pp. 207-210).  Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • Reprinted in Readings in Deviant Behavior, 5th Edition, edited by Thio, Calhoun and Conyers. Boston: Allyn & Bacon (2007).


2004  Wesely, Jennifer K. and Gaarder, Emily. The gendered "nature" of the urban outdoors: Women negotiating fear of violence.  Gender & Society, 18 (5), 645-663.


2003  Wesely, Jennifer K. Exotic dancing and the negotiation of identity: The multiple uses of body technologies. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 32 (6), 643-669.

  • Reprinted in Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader, 2/E, edited by Stombler, Baunauch, Burgess, Donnelly & Boston: Allyn & Bacon (2007).


2003 Wesely, Jennifer K. "Where am I going to stop?": Exotic dancing, fluid body boundaries, and the effects on identity.  Deviant Behavior, 24 (5), 483-503.


2002  Wesely, Jennifer K.  Growing up sexualized: Issues of power and violence in the childhood and adult lives of female exotic dancers. Violence Against Women, 8, 1182-1207. 


2001  Wesely, Jennifer K. Negotiating gender: Bodybuilding and the natural/unnatural continuum.  Sociology of Sport Journal, 18 (2), 162-180.


2000  Wesely, Jennifer K., Allison, Maria T. & Schneider, Ingrid E.  The lived body experience of domestic violence survivors: An interrogation of female identity. Women's Studies International Forum, 23, 211-222.


Contact Information

Building 51, Room 2303

(904) 620-1685