Hi! I submitted my PhD thesis for examination, 1 year ago today!!!
It is standard practice when submitting a doctoral thesis to include an ‘acknowledgements’ section – thanking everyone who helped take the doctoral thesis from a series of abstract concepts and aspirations to a concrete piece of work that allows me to call myself Dr. Marks.
This is mine.
This thesis represents the culmination of an intellectual journey but even more than that – an exercise in persistence. In many ways, this thesis is about resistance – resisting that sexual violence is normal and acceptable, despite our cultural messaging telling us otherwise. It is impossible to resist or persist alone. There are so many people who helped me to survive this PhD process, and even better, a few who helped me to thrive.
The people who participated in this study, especially the women who were so vulnerable and giving in sharing their stories with me, represent resistance. We can never resist violence if we do not first recognise it. The women who I was lucky to speak with shared such rich accounts of how violence is able to thrive in our communities. These stories were more often than not, both heartbreaking and inspiring. These women often stood alone, bravely naming and calling out violence when nobody else, not even those close to them, wanted to listen. I am grateful for the opportunity to listen and the privilege to tell these stories. I hope I have done them justice.
Throughout my academic journey I have been supervised by kind, generous, community-minded academics, Dr. Heather Brook, Dr. Dee Michell, Emeritus Professor Chris Beasley, Professor Murray Drummond, Professor Sarah Wendt, and Dr. Deb Agnew. Their commitment and approach to research has informed my own. Each researcher is entirely different, except for their dedication to research and the people it impacts. Thank you to my current supervision team, Murray, Sarah, and Deb for getting me to this point. For a while it seemed like I would never make it to the finish line and your support and stability made the all the difference.
Murray, thank you for unfailing belief in me and your kind words when I needed it most. It means so much to have you in my corner.
Sarah, I knew I wanted you to join the supervision team as soon as you asked me to tell you how my research was feminist. Thank you for your diligence in making sure this project was the best feminist work it could be.
Deb, thank you for casting a keen eye over my work and for your attention to detail and research ethics. Your feedback made me think about things I may not have considered otherwise.
I survived and thrived through this PhD because of my friends and family, and professional help. It’s been a rough journey – doing sexual violence research as a survivor takes an emotional toll. I have also faced a lot of hostility and violence throughout this project, in academia and elsewhere. I couldn’t have managed if I didn’t have loved ones to share with, and two incredible therapists who helped me cope. Katy Perisic and Colleen Dibiamaka provided expert counselling, kindness, and support that helped me make it through the most difficult periods of the PhD. Emotional wellbeing should be a key consideration for PhD students, especially for survivor researchers, but it is not.
My support network is large, thanks to my big and boisterous family, and my loving friends, who are family too. To my mum and dad, Tanya and Tim, Grandma, my siblings, Maddi, Keghan, Jayden, Tenae, Dylan, Jake, Brandon and Kieran, Maddie, Zack, and Angus, and my niblings, Blaize, Kara, Zakai, and Henry – our family is magic, it is resistance, and it is love. We make our own rules about what constitutes family. There is always enough to love to give and share, we never run out, everyone is welcome. This passionate, inclusive, and frankly, chaotic background provided a welcome distraction from hardest parts of this PhD journey. Thank you, all of you, for always being proud of me, even though you had no idea what I was talking about most of the time.
My friends provided much needed support, love, distraction, validation, and solidarity. I have grown up so much during the time I have undertaken this PhD, mostly thanks to them. There are a few in particular who helped me through, held me accountable, and encouraged me to keep plodding along. I don’t think I could have finished my PhD without you.
Roxy, how can I begin to thank you. Thank you for sharing every moment of this PhD with me for the last two years. If nothing else, I am grateful to this PhD for bringing us together and helping us to be so close, we practically live in each other’s pocket. I am so happy that we have managed to share every part of our lives together, even our office space and our house, and emerged stronger than ever. I am so excited to see how much more we can grow together, and to see you finish your PhD too.
Hayley, thank you for keeping me in constant supply of snuggles, silliness, and absolute love. Your love, support, and encouragement has helped me through so many dark and scary times. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to share, need help, and accept love. You have so much love to give and I know that I am lucky to receive it.
Caity, I feel so lucky to have been your friend for 12 years and counting. Your calming and loving presence shines through always, whether our connection happens through a phone call or you diagnosing the ways that this PhD stress has showed up in my body. Thank you for sharing your dogs with me, giving me a place to live when I needed it most, and showing up every day to help me through. You are healing, you are love, and I am privileged to have you by my side.
Kolinda, thank you for 14 years of friendship and counting. I know that we will grow old together even though you are obsessed with staying young. I am so grateful for the times we got to escape and explore faraway places. Those times were so rejuvenating and insightful – and undoubtedly helped me make the pivotal decisions that got me to this point. Ove ya bby.
Thank you also to Josephine, Kathomi, Chelsey, Asha, and Caleb for our long fruitful, comforting and supportive chats, and to Nyree, Kristi, and Eleni for the support, laughter, and check ins.
The greatest privilege of doing a PhD is cultivating relationships and community with people who are passionate, motivated, and smart, especially other PhD students. I served as a conference organiser and representative for Gender Studies PhDs throughout my candidature, and this has meant that I have connected with so many incredible scholars and humans. To the squad, Aisha, Amy, Angelica, Ash, Bridget, Chloe, Kathy, Kristi, Lizzie, Lizzy, Roxy, Sarah, Simone, everyone else who has popped in and out, non-squad PhD colleagues, Emma, Shae, and Shoshannah, and all of my various office mates – I am so thankful to have met you all and cultivated community with you. You are all inspiring and I am grateful to have your friendship.
My collegiate community is much broader than PhD students, of course. I’m thankful to have learnt from the many researchers I have crossed paths with, conversed with, and served with on committees, especially the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association executive and the conference organisation committees for the South Australian Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Gender, Sex, and Sexuality conference. I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful feminist colleagues, inside and out of universities. In particular, I want to acknowledge Deb Waterhouse-Watson, Emma Sherry, Lizette Twistleton, and everyone else who took the time to listen to me, share their wisdom, give me opportunities, and include me in their networks. There are many more people who helped me or shared with me who aren’t mentioned – I am grateful to you all.
I would like to acknowledge the practical help, waged and volunteer, that I have received while conducting research, drawn from a community of feminist colleagues. Kat Dundon and Jess Hill conducted transcription work, paid for using funds from the University of Adelaide Postgraduate Fund and Karen Halley Trust. Roxy Baratosy, Ash Borgkvist, Josephine Browne, Chloe Cannell, Shae Mortimer, and Camille Nurka volunteered to read chapters of my thesis and provided invaluable proofing and feedback. I am so thankful for your help.
I have had the privilege to study at two universities while doing my PhD and benefit from accessing a large, diverse research community. I feel lucky to have been a part of the University of Adelaide Gender Studies community and continue to be included. I would especially like to thank my supervisors from the University of Adelaide, Dr. Dee Michell and Emeritus Professor Chris Beasley, and Pam Papadelos for her support. Dee, thank you for teaching me how to teach and reinforcing that vicarious and survivor traumas are real, valid, and significant. Chris, thank you for your unparalleled theoretical knowledge and encouraging me to write what I really mean to say. I am grateful for everything I learned from you both.
Returning to my alma mater, Flinders University, meant coming home to the space where I first felt connected to research, almost entirely thanks to Dr. Heather Brook. It was bittersweet then to see how Heather was treated by the university administration in the final months of her life. After nearly 20 years of dedicated service, Heather was made redundant without care or consideration. This move reduced the Women’s Studies department from 1 staff member to 3, demonstrating that feminist research is seen as threatening – it represents a form of resistance. Heather was a thoughtful and brilliant academic, and a much-loved teacher, mentor, and friend. She represented what academia could be and what academics ought to be. She showed up for the causes that she believed in, simply because it was the right thing to do. Heather really believed in her students. All of us who were privileged to learn from her will never forget her generosity, warmth, and unfailing pride in our achievements and the people we became. I would never have embarked on this PhD, or stuck it out, if it wasn’t for Heather’s encouragement. This thesis is dedicated to her.