For the Safety of Students: Five Questions for Mary Koss

Mary P. Koss, Ph.D.

With close to 300 peer-reviewed publications and a number of academic awards to her name, it’s hard to believe that University of Arizona Regents’ Professor Mary P. Koss once had to fight her way into the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her test scores put her head and shoulders above other applicants, but it took a tense meeting with the department head — in which she let a bit of profanity slip out — to finally get accepted into their graduate school. Clinical psychology was a very male-dominated field in the early 1980s, when she was starting her career, and that was all too clear when a colleague shared his idea for a study that would explore male undergraduates’ attitudes toward rape — by having models pose in varying sizes of padded bras and be rated for their desirability and culpability if raped.


The term date rape was first used in the news media 35 years ago this month.


From that conversation, though, came the seed of an idea that would soon set Dr. Koss apart from her peers. At that time, Dr. Koss was at Kent State in Ohio, still years before she joined the University of Arizona. She made a name for herself studying campus sexual assault by developing a survey that revolutionized efforts to gauge respondents’ experiences of sexual aggression and victimization, revealing a higher prevalence than previously thought. Her initial study was publicized 35 years ago this month, in Ms. Magazine’s September 1982 issue, in an article that also marked the first time a national news publication used the term date rape. Both Dr. Koss’ research and the introduction of that term to the national conversation were game-changers in many ways.

At the time the article was published, most rape-prevention programs on college campuses were relatively new and narrowly focused on the danger posed by strangers — the assailants waiting in alleyways, rather than the familiar faces in classrooms or dorms. Dr. Koss’ research, as well as the stories writer Karen Barrett reported from Stanford University and the University of Connecticut for the Ms. article, revealed that many cases of rape, especially those committed by the victims’ peers and acquaintances, were often ignored, denied, or misunderstood as something other than rape. The concept of date rape helped many people recognize rape — their own or others’ — that had been perpetrated by people known to the victims.

Greater awareness and understanding of the problem of campus sexual assault soon followed, but the 35 years since then have seen both progress and setbacks. In fact, as the anniversary of that historic Ms. article approached, news began coming from the Department of Education that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos vowed to revisit Obama-era policies that addressed campus sexual assault. A series of information-gathering meetings included a group that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, seeks “to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Joel Feinman for Pima County Attorney

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

After graduating from law school at the University of Arizona, Joel Feinman spent almost a decade as a criminal trial lawyer for the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. Last September, he decided to leave that role and devote his time to running as a Democratic candidate for the office of Pima County Attorney, where he believes he could play a bigger role in advancing justice. Since September, Feinman’s campaign messaging has shown the depth and breadth of what justice means to him, from providing legal assistance to refugees to ensuring that at-risk communities aren’t further distressed by misguided policies — and enforcement — that fragment families, criminalize people with mental illnesses, and leave high unemployment in their wake.


“People should be empowered to make their own choices and control their own bodies and determine their own futures.”


One of the strongest examples of Feinman’s commitment to justice has been the time and energy he has put into supporting reproductive justice. Feinman, who describes himself as a lifelong supporter of Planned Parenthood, started volunteering for the organization when he was 12 years old. He has continued to give his time to the organization and served for four years as Chair of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this month, Feinman received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 12, he generously took the time for a telephone interview to answer our questions about his candidacy.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Tucson and was raised in Phoenix. I went to Northwestern University for undergrad and went back to Tucson for law school. I graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 2007 and went to work at the Pima County Public Defender’s Office as a defense attorney, defending poor people accused of felony offenses. I did that for eight years until I left my job in September of 2015 to run full-time for County Attorney. I’ve also been a volunteer, a donor, and a supporter and a board member of Planned Parenthood in one combination or another since I was about 12 years old. Continue reading