Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dr. Diana E. H. Russell

By Caitlin Easter

“Professor Russell is the recognized academic expert on the empirical study of sexual violence
against women in the United States, and a leading authority on this subject throughout the world. None
of the conceptual, factual, political, or legal advances in understanding, documenting, and opposing
violence against women in this country, including my own work, would have been possible without her
ground-breaking studies and scholarly publications.” – Catharine MacKinnon, Ph.D.

Dr. Diana E. H. Russell is one of the pioneering advocates for ending violence against women,
and taught one of the first ever courses on women in the United States.
After earning a PhD in Sociology from Harvard University, Dr. Russell went on to publish an
abundance of research, author and co-author 17 books, design a feminist flag, and redefine femicide to
mean “the killing of females by males because they are female.” Dr. Russell published many books in her
over 40 years of activism, but one of the first and most noteworthy was titled “The Politics of Rape.” It
was published in 1975 and, according to her website, was one of the first analyses of rape culture that
suggested a causal relationship between our societies “accepted notions of masculinity and the
perpetration of rape.”

In addition, she conducted the first ever scientific study about the prevalence and effects of the incestuous abuse of females, was a founding member of the first feminist anti-pornography organization in the world named Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media (WAVPM), and organized the first ever feminist International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women speak-out. Her books covered a wide variety of topics related to violence against women, including: the many different kinds of rape categorized based on the perpetrator relation to the victim, pornographic sexual violence, woman beating/battering, the torture of women, femicide, and incestuous and extramarital child sexual abuse.

She also started the Feminists’ Anti-Nuclear Group, also known as FANG, in 1983 which sought to show people the role that the patriarchy plays in the development of nuclear arms.

“Russell’s survey on sexual assault is the best that’s been done…. She convincingly shows that sexual exploitation occurs in mammoth proportions, and she presents the first hard data to answer dozens of questions. This is a giant step forward in our accumulation of knowledge about rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.” – David Finkelhor

For more information of Dr. Diana E. H. Russell, visit her website at: