Psychology

Sewanee: The University of the South

Student-faculty research at National Conference on Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

December 22, 2011

Two research projects involving Sewanee students were presented at the Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence: Innovations in Practice & Research Conference November 6-8, 2011 in Portsmouth NH.  The Conference was sponsored by the University of New Hampshire School of Law and the University of New Hampshire in collaboration with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Associate Research Professor of Psychology Sherry Hamby and Sarah Clark ’11, Post Graduate Research Associate at the Yale University Child Study Center, presented Beyond Rope Ladders & Padlocks: A New Approach to Safety Planning in the Monday afternoon session Challenges Victims Face after Abuse.

  • Advocacy for victims of intimate partner violence often focuses on physical danger. This is especially true of formal assessment tools and safety plans that are widely available on the internet and elsewhere. More attention needs to be paid to other risks faced by victims, including familial, financial, and emotional risks. These include losing housing, moving to higher crime areas, and losing custody of children. This presentation will describe an alternative risk assessment framework, Multiple Criteria Decision Making (MCDM). In this framework, common in environmental science and other fields where they also deal with complex problems, victims can identify multiple risks that they wish to address. They can then evaluate multiple options to identify the steps that will not only promote safety but also maximize as many other outcomes as possible. The principles of MCDM have been used to create a new tool, the Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks (VIGOR, Hamby & Clark, 2011). A pilot study of the VIGOR with 103 women who had sought help for battering was completed to learn more about women’s perceptions of their risks and resources using the semi-structured VIGOR. Although the risk of physical danger was reported by almost half (48%) of the sample and nearly 1 in 6 (16.5%) reported a fear of being murdered, many other risks were common. Concerns about children’s safety and wellbeing were reported by 43%, financial security issues by 53%, lack of social support by 44%, family rejection by 27%, and fear of losing custody by 27%. Despite the high reports of lack of social support and family rejection, family and friends were nonetheless two of the most commonly reported strengths (54% and 42%). Having faith (46%) and their church community (49%) were also commonly mentioned, as was having a job (40%). “Safety planning” and “dangerousness assessment” should be broadened to incorporate a more holistic approach to risk and risk management.  [Program Abstract]

Sarah writes of her experience:

  • I was lucky to attend the National Conference on Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Portsmouth, NH.  At this event, I was able to consider various perspectives of violence against women and to see how my research fit into this larger picture.  It was especially interesting to hear lawyers, prosecutors, and other members of the criminal justice system offer their opinions on these issues and to see how advocates and researchers can work together to encourage prosecution of those who commit violence.  It was also gratifying to meet leaders in the field, and to hear their research as they are conducting it, rather than after the delay of the publication process.  Also, although it was nerve-wracking to present at such an important venue, I gained valuable confidence and experience in giving an oral presentation.  The diversity of perspectives was especially impressive in expanding my knowledge about violence against women.  It opened my eyes to the ways in which we as a society are often complacent about issues of violence against women.  After attending this conference, I am energized to continue working in this sphere in both research and prevention.

Caroline Lindemuth ’12, Associate Research Professor of Psychology Sherry Hamby, and Jacqueline De Puy, Université de Lausanne, presented Teen Dating Violence in French-Speaking Switzerland: Attitudes & Experiences in the Monday and Tuesday poster session.

  • Teen dating violence has received much less attention outside of North America, with a particular lack of information on younger teens or the non-college population. This study presents the first data on dating violence attitudes and experiences for an adolescent sample of vocational students in French-speaking Switzerland.
  • Method: Participants were 112 youth (56% male), aged 14 to 22 years old, who attended some type of vocational educational or training program in French-speaking Switzerland. They completed self-report questionnaires on attitudes towards violence, egalitarian sex role values, and dating experiences during the first session of a teen dating violence prevention program.
  • Results: Significant percentages of these youth endorsed some justifications for violence, with 1 in 5 saying a boy could hit a girl if she hit first, and 2 in 5 saying the reverse. A number of biases against women were also common. For example, more than half said women were more easily influenced than men and 2 in 5 said it was better if women did not work outside the home. Experiences of physical and psychological aggression were also common among those who had been in dating relationships.
  • Conclusion: Teen dating violence is a worldwide problem. Many risk factors that have long been the target of intervention in North America were common in this group, indicating a need for prevention efforts in Switzerland. [Program Abstract]

Travel to the Conference was supported by the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and the Psychology Department.  The Hamby and Clark study was supported by a Sewanee Faculty Development Grant to the senior author.  The Lindemuth, Hamby, and De Puy study was supported in part by a grant from the Oak Foundation, headquartered in Geneva.

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