My name is Guissella Cruz and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a rising fourth-year Service Scholar at Florida State University and I am a Sociology Major and a Political Science minor. I have found a home at the Center for Leadership and Social Change as a Service Scholar since I enjoy spending my time engaging in service by conducting research. In my free time, I care for my plants which are mostly native to the Amazon. Calatheas are my favorite plants to care for and my Zebrina Calathea is my favorite thus far. I enjoy cooking, reading, working out, and doing yoga in my free time as well. I am currently reading The Body Keeps Score which I have found to be very valuable in becoming more trauma-informed to better engage in my service.
During my second and third year, I was a research assistant and receptionist at FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights (CAHR) serving vulnerable undocumented communities by conducting research to support VAWA cases, providing translation services, and filing USCIS forms. I also had the privilege of taking part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) during my second year with Dr. Brendan Lantz and Dr. Marin Wenger investigating the relationship between Confederate Memorialization and Hate Crimes. This experience solidified my passion for research which prompted me to become a UROP leader and encouraged me to pursue a summer Directed individual Study with Dr. Terry Coonan and Vania Aguilar at the CAHR researching statewide resources in Florida for survivors of human trafficking. After UROP, I continued to conduct research with Dr. Brendan Lantz and Dr. Marin Wenger and investigated the relationship between Condederate Memorilization and Hate Groups. I had the opportunity to present this research at the 2020 Undergraduate Research Symposium and the 2021 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference. I also had the privilege of serving District 33 as a legislative intern to Senator Perry E. Thurston Jr., in the Florida Senate during the Spring of 2020 and I am currently serving as a 2021 legislative intern at Pittman Law Group.
I am now in the Honors Program as an Undergraduate Honors Thesis Candidate in the Department of Sociology with Dr. Brendan Lantz as my supervisor. Through the Honors program, I am investigating the impact Image-Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA) has on low-income BIPOC youth and the extent to which victimization distorts youth’s understanding of consent. As a 2021 Social Science Scholar, 2021 Global Scholar, and 2021 IDEA Grant recipient, I am dedicating my summer project to my Honors Thesis. I am eager to uplift and center the experiences of Black and Brown survivors victimized by image-based sexual abuse.
Growing research demonstrates there is a lack of understanding revolving around this form of sexual abuse. For my summer project, I am currently working on an Academic Literature Review to fill any gaps within the research and to better understand Image-Based Sexual Abuse which is the “disclosure of sexually explicit images without consent and for no legitimate purpose” (Franks 2017). During the summer, I have been working on creating a thematic interview guide and submitting an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Application to start interviewing survivors this upcoming Fall semester. Image-based sexual abuse is an emerging form of abuse that largely targets children, women, and the LGBTQI community. With the increasing access children have to the internet, children are also largely victimized and sexually extorted as a result of their vulnerability. More so, BIPOC youth are hypersexualized at a young age, making them more susceptible to the victimization of IBSA and may even go as far as being human trafficked by their peers as young as their pre-teens. During this upcoming Fall, my study will further investigate the prevalence of image-based sexual abuse among BIPOC youth and the extent to which IBSA distorts the understanding youth have of consent.
My goal for this upcoming year is to create an empowerment-based nonprofit that dedicates itself to researching the ever-changing forms of sexual violence preying on our youth. Post-graduation, I aspire to attend law school and become an appellate attorney and create meaningful change for individuals victimized by sexual violence.
Franks, M. A. (2017). Revenge Porn Reform: A View from the Front Lines. Fla. L. Rev., 69, 1251.