Jennifer K Wesely


Criminology and Criminal Justice • College of Arts & Sciences

Areas of Expertise

Domestic Violence, Gender, Inequality and Justice, Women’s Experiences of Violence and Homelessness


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 the legal system and qualitative research methods. Teaching is a passion and I was honored to receive the 2008-2009 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award at UNF. In my research, I investigate marginalized groups, in particular intimate partner violence victims, sex workers, or women who are homeless, and frame 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. 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. To hear a radio interview during which I covered some of the findings from this research on WJCT 89.9 FM Public Radio's "In Context" show go to:, and to view a live interview on the WJXT Channel 4 Morning Show go to: I also recently spoke on the national public radio show “The Academic Minute” about this work. Please see:

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.” During the Fall 2010 semester I was awarded a sabbatical, and during that time I wrote a book about this concept and argued that it must be incorporated into any discussion about populations of women and their lived experiences. The book is forthcoming, and 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, the book is due out in early 2012 with Lynne Rienner publishers. For more information, go to:

I pursue social justice in all my work and am involved in university groups and community agencies that have this same goal. For example, I am currently Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Sexual Assault Advisory Council (SAAC), which is comprised of agency members in the city who provide services to sexual assault victims at every stage of the process. I have been a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organization of Northeast Florida for over 5 years. I also enjoy collaborating with students in community and research settings. Most recently, I co-authored an article with a former graduate student derived from her Master’s thesis about risks among prostitutes; this article is forthcoming in the journal Deviant Behavior.


Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, UNF. 2012

Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, UNF. 2009

Publications & Presentations

Jasinski, Jana L., Wesely, Jennifer K., Wright, James D. and Mustaine, Elizabeth E. (2010). Hard Lives, Mean Streets: Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wesely, Jennifer K., Allison, Maria T. & Schneider, Ingrid E. (2001). The lived body experience of domestic violence survivors: An interrogation of female identity. Women's Studies International Forum, 23, 211-222

WeselyContact Information

Building 51, Room 2303

(904) 620-1685