September 23, 2018

This fall, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence will publish a special issue, “Preventing violence: The role of public policies in preventing intimate partner violence, teen dating violence, and sexual violence.” The issue features several articles by researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, including the commentary, “Leveraging Data to Strengthen Campus Sexual Assault Policies,” published online September 5.

The commentary is an effort of the UNC Gender-Based Violence Research Group, a student-led group that works to foster a better understanding of, and to help end, violence associated with a person’s gender.

Dr. Sandra Martin

Dr. Sandra Martin

Sarah Treves-Kagan

Sarah Treves-Kagan

“This group is a great example of bringing people to the table to work together across disciplines and practices to address an issue of critical importance,” said Sandra L. Martin, PhD,  professor and associate chair for research in the Gillings School’s Department of Maternal and Child Health and one of the commentary’s authors. “That two student-led articles are in this journal shows the impact our students are making on the scientific community.”

Along with Martin, commentary authors are Gillings School students Sarah Treves-Kagan, MPH, doctoral candidate in health behavior, and Stephanie M. DeLong, MPH, doctoral candidate in epidemiology. UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work student authors include lead author Lauren “LB” Klein, MSW, MPA, and Premela G. Deck, JD, MSW, both doctoral students in social work, and Laurie M. Graham, MSW, doctoral candidate in social work.

The team’s commentary examines how campus sexual assault (CSA) legislation and guidance should be evaluated and applied in practice. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) said that existing legislation and guidance on CSA policies had created a “failed system” in institutions of higher education.

“The current administration’s DOE rescinded Obama-era recommendations which pushed to take the issue of campus sexual assault more seriously, provide more support to survivors of assault, invest more in prevention, and provide more guidance in best practices in investigations of sexual assault,” said Treves-Kagan. “Our commentary speaks to the importance of collecting the data on campus sexual assault to see whether and how the system has ‘failed.’ These are critical first steps in developing and implementing evidence-based policies and programming.”

The commentary chronicles the pivotal role of federal policy and guidance in driving the collection of CSA data and increasing research efforts in this domain. The researchers also make recommendations for increased collaboration among researchers, practitioners and policy makers aimed at measuring the effectiveness of current CSA policies and promoting data-driven policy.

These recommendations focus upon establishing a CSA data repository; analyzing existing CSA data to gain knowledge and identify opportunities for improved data collection; and translating and disseminating CSA research to help bridge gaps between research, practice and policy.

The CSA data repository would better equip researchers to locate and analyze existing CSA data, identify the data’s strengths and limitations, and develop and implement a research agenda to collect new, needed data that address the current limitations.

The authors advocate for the creation of partnerships that push researchers to disseminate their findings beyond traditional academic media, such as practice conferences, policy briefs, white papers, webinars, online videos, social media campaigns and fact sheets, to develop educational programs and tools tailored to each campus.


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