DV Programs Help Survivors: The DV Evidence Project and Theory of Change

By Cris M. Sullivan, PhD, Director of Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence, and Anne Menard, CEO, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence


Increasingly, domestic violence (DV) victim advocacy programs are being asked by funders and policy makers to describe not just whether and how their services are “evidence-based,” but what theory of change guides their work. In order to help DV programs respond to both of these demands, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has created an online resource center that houses a great deal of free and accessible resources.

Among other things, The DV Evidence Project houses a theory of change that programs can use to demonstrate the process through which their services result in long-term benefits for survivors and their children. A theory of change is an empirically justified explanation of how and why one expects a desired change to occur. It involves identifying the desired long-term goals (i.e., what are we hoping to accomplish?), and then working backwards to identify how to achieve measurable outcomes tied to the goals (i.e., how do we get there?). DV programs engage in a wide range of activities designed to have a positive impact on the safety and well-being of both survivors and their children. In addition to helping survivors protect themselves and their children from current and future abuse, programs also work to increase survivors’ sense of self-efficacy as well as their hope for the future, and directly increase their access to community resources, opportunities, and supports (including social support). Staff recognize that well-being is not independent from community-level factors, and—in addition to their work with individual survivors—they engage in a variety of efforts to create communities that hold offenders accountable, promote justice and survivor safety, and provide adequate resources and opportunities for all community members. They accomplish these objectives through system-level advocacy efforts, prevention activities, community education activities, and collaborative community actions.

This theory of change was created in 2012 in collaboration with numerous experts, including practitioners, advocates, survivors, funders, researchers, and policy makers, and then it was updated in 2016. The theory first notes that the long-term goal of domestic violence programs is to enhance survivors’ and their children’s well-being. There is ample empirical evidence demonstrating that (a) self-efficacy; (b) hopefulness; (c) social connectedness; (d) safety; (e) having adequate social and economic opportunities; (f) economic stability; (g) enhanced justice; and (h) good physical, emotional, and spiritual health have an impact on social and emotional well-being. DV programs are invested in influencing these eight factors for survivors and their children through efforts targeting multiple levels of change.

While the type of direct services offered by DV agencies may differ (e.g., advocacy, shelter, counseling, transitional housing, supervised visitation, children’s programs, support groups), they share a number of common elements (e.g., providing new knowledge, safety planning, skill building). The following eight components are recommended as mechanisms for achieving the social and emotional well-being of domestic violence survivors and their children:

  1. Providing information about their rights, options and experiences
  2. Safety planning
  3. Building skills
  4. Offering encouragement, empathy, and respect
  5. Supportive counseling
  6. Increasing access to community resources and opportunities
  7. Increasing social support and community connections, and
  8. Community change and systems change work.

The DV Evidence Project site provides brief summaries of the research and evidence behind shelters, advocacy, support groups and counseling, demonstrating that programs are engaged in “evidence-based practice”. Finally, evaluation tools are provided so that programs don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  These evaluation tools include client surveys, tips for engaging staff in evaluation, strategies for gathering the data in sensitive ways, and protocols for interpreting and using the findings. All of these resources are available at no cost, and we hope they are helpful to those in the field doing this incredibly important work.

anne-mendardAnne Menard is an activist who has worked on policy, practice and research issues affecting domestic violence and sexual assault survivors since the mid-70s. Her particular focus has been on survivor-defined advocacy and public policy and research affecting women and their families,especially those living in poverty. After serving as a senior consultant to the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services during 2005, she returned as CEO of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), a position she previously held from 1994-99. Prior to this national level work, Ms. Menard led the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence for over six years, and, in the early 1980s, co-directed Connecticut’s largest domestic violence shelter and was actively involved in grassroots
sexual assault advocacy.
Anne Menard
CEO, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
3605 Vartan Way, Suite 101
Harrisburg, PA 17110
800-537-2238 x 121
(cell:  717-386-5309)
sullivanCris M. Sullivan is the Director of the Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence and Professor of Ecological/Community Psychology at Michigan State University (MSU). In addition to her MSU appointments, Dr. Sullivan was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to chair the Michigan Domestic & Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board, and she is Senior Research Advisor to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.  Dr. Sullivan is internationally recognized for her expertise in evaluating domestic violence and sexual assault programs. Her reputation led the Family Violence Prevention & Services Administration (FVPSA)to enlist her help in 2006 in creating two outcomes that are now used by all FVPSA grantees across the county. In 2012, she developed a Theory of Change describing the process through which domestic violence programs improve the lives of survivors and their children (http://www.dvevidenceproject.org), and this model has been enthusiastically adopted nationally.She has written evaluation manuals for programs and provides trainings on this topic that are well-received, and her work is highly regarded by policy makers, academics and advocates.
Cris M. Sullivan, PhD
Director, MSU Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence
Professor, Ecological/Community Psychology
130 Psychology Bldg., 316 Physics Rd.Michigan State University
E. Lansing, MI  48824-1116
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It’s Time to Include Relationship Violence in the Campus Sexual Assault Conversation

By Elizabeth Wilmerding


Recent strides have been made in sexual violence prevention in the college environment, although we still have a long way to go. To anyone working in this field for years—or decades—this small amount of progress can make one think, “It’s about time.” It’s time to acknowledge the amount of trauma occurring on college campuses. It’s time for survivors to get access to the support and services they deserve. It’s time for federal laws, state laws, and campus policies to promote cultures of nonviolence. And, it’s time to bring dating and domestic violence into the campus sexual assault conversation.

Our culture and policies around sexual violence are changing because our level of understanding is changing. Yet, we’re continuing to leave out dating and domestic violence. We now know that up to 90% of survivors of attempted or completed rape know their attackers. We know that 1 in 5 women will experience such an assault in their lives, as will 1 in 33 men and 1 in 2 trans* or gender-nonconforming people. We have begun to consider sexual violence from an intersectional perspective, recognizing that survivors have complex identities before an assault, and that those identities impact their experiences of trauma and healing in unique and complex ways. While our narratives around sexual assault and rape have shifted to include these realities, they haven’t changed enough to account for the intersections between sexual violence and relationship violence.

If we want to truly change our culture and eradicate interpersonal violence, it is critical that we acknowledge the link between sexual violence and relationship violence. One in 3 women have experienced violence from an intimate partner. Of these hundreds of thousands of women, 40-45% will experience sexual assault or rape as part of the abuse. New data shows us that 1 in 4 men may experience dating or domestic violence and these figures and those for trans* and gender-nonconforming people may underestimate the rate of incidence. Imagine if we dedicated the same amount of time, resources, and expertise to preventing dating and domestic violence on our campuses as we devote to preventing sexual assault and rape.

Many colleges and universities educate their students about affirmative consent, bystander intervention techniques they can use at parties, and definitions of sexual assault and rape. What if we expanded these dialogues to include the extreme jealousy and stalking that can indicate dating violence, and the intimidation and displays of power that often accompany domestic violence? What if we made sure undergraduate students understood that dating violence can happen in a variety of relationships, including those involving hook-ups or friends-with-benefits? And, what if we spoke with students about the many shapes domestic violence can take in marriages and long-term relationships?

I suspect that, by emphasizing the links to dating and domestic violence in our conversations about sexual violence, we will be able to greatly increase awareness of many types of interpersonal violence and reduce their occurrence and impact. Not only that, but we will validate the experiences of the many survivors whose experiences are not limited to one categorization of harm. True violence prevention depends on having a broad and nuanced understanding of both the current climate and our vision for the future. If we truly hope to end sexual assault, rape, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual harassment, we must have a comprehensive approach. It’s time to include dating and domestic violence in our conversations and strategies about ending sexual violence on college campuses.

eliz1Elizabeth Wilmerding is pursuing a Master’s degree (2017) at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare. Her background is in the prevention and support of survivors of sexual and relationship violence, in campus and community settings. A former intern at Futures Without Violence, she is currently doing a field placement at UC Berkeley’s PATH to Care Center, the university’s organization devoted to violence prevention and survivor support. She lives in Oakland, CA.

Tech Safety App Protects Users from Online Harassment and Abuse

By Taylor Flagg


The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) developed the Tech Safety App as an educational resource on issues regarding harassment via technology. There is no one right way to respond when faced with harassment, stalking or abuse through technology, and this app is not a comprehensive safety plan, as each instance of harassment or abuse calls for a specific solution.

Technology poses a unique problem with regard to harassment. Harassment and abuse through technology can often be isolating and difficult to escape due to the nature of the medium. Victims and law enforcement authorities may not be able to identify perpetrators if they hide behind technology, which can make escaping the situation even more difficult. As the Tech Safety App points out, “Just because the harassment isn’t in person doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel or is any less real or threatening.” Even though harassment and abuse occur through technology they are still harassment and abuse, and may be considered criminal behavior.

When you open the app, there are six subjects you can click on to explore: cell phone safety, device safety, harassment, impersonation, location safety, and online safety. When you click on each subject, the app outlines steps you can take, safety tips, and resources available regarding that particular issue. Resources available in the app include tips for reacting and responding to harassment and abuse through technology, including documenting evidence, talking with an advocate, talking to the police, and finding an attorney.

The app is easy to use, and has a helpful function called “Find My Way.” When you open the app, the “Find My Way” bar provides users with a step-by-step menu on where to begin. You may not be sure under which of the categories your particular problem falls, and this function addresses that obstacle. The “Find My Way” option begins with five common reasons people may want to use the app: “I need help and someone to talk to,” “I am worried about harassment or stalking,” “I am worried that someone knows too much,” “I want tips on how to increase my privacy,” and “I want someone to know what’s happening.” Clicking on any of the choices brings users to further step-by-step options designed to help them find what they are looking for. This is a great function for those unsure of where to start.

Everyone can benefit from this app. It is a wonderful tool for anyone who may be experiencing harassment via technology themselves or have friends or family members who are having this experience. It is also a wonderful educational tool for those who want to learn about a widespread issue that can affect anyone. It educates users on the nature and dynamics of harassment and abuse through technology, and includes informative descriptions of various tactics used by abusers. For instance, did you know that a phone’s Caller ID can be manipulated to hide the real phone number of the caller? Perpetrators can use various technological services to change the phone number, their voice, add background noise, or record harassing or abusive phone calls. This can make it incredibly difficult to identify the perpetrator. The Tech Safety App tells users about such practices and explains that state and federal laws forbid someone from manipulating caller ID with the intent to harass or harm another individual. It also notes that there are services that can expose masked Caller ID numbers and reveal the actual number of the caller.

The app reminds users that safety is most important. If you believe you may be harassed or abused through technology, or are being threatened, consider whether the harassing, threatening or abusive person may be able to learn that you are seeking resources or information, and whether he/she may be likely to escalate their abusive or harassing behavior upon discovering you are seeking information or support. If yes, or if you are not sure, Tech Safety encourages users to use this app from a device to which an abusive person does not have access.

If you are interested in downloading the Tech Safety App, visit techsafetyapp.org for more information.

tf-picTaylor Flagg, B.A., is a Graduate Student in the Justice Studies Program at the University of New Hampshire and a Graduate Researcher at Prevention Innovations Research Center. Taylor earned her B.A. in both History and Justice Studies from the University of New Hampshire. Her passions in social justice are concentrated in global crime and inequalities facing women. She hopes to enter a career in social justice following completion of her degree.


Strengthening the Domestic Violence Field: Building the Evaluation Capacity of Community-Based Organizations

By: Dr. Rebecca Rodriguez, Martha Martinez-Hernandez, MPA, and Dr. Josie Serrata


Domestic violence organizations are tasked with providing evidence to funders and other stakeholders that their programs have a positive impact on program participants. For some organizations, evaluation can seem like a daunting task, especially if they have limited internal capacity, or do not have experience conducting their own evaluations in a way that is palatable to external stakeholders.  This is the reality faced by many small community-based organizations (CBOs) working in the field of domestic violence across the United States, in particular for those working with communities that have been historically marginalized.

Responding to the need for CBOs to document their work—while understanding that perhaps not all of us have experience with evaluation—the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities (NLN), a project of Casa de Esperanza, set about making the evaluation process accessible and practitioner-friendly.  Led by their research and evaluation team, the NLN partnered with several Latina community-based organizations from across the country (La Paz, Trans Latina Coalition, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Voces Latinas, Casa de Esperanza’s Amigos program) to develop the Building Evidence Evaluation Toolkit,  a free web-based tool for organizations that approach domestic violence prevention from a culturally specific framework and are seeking to demonstrate the importance of what they do.

Using the analogy of a receta, or recipe, the evaluation toolkit seeks to build and expand the capacity of organizations to conduct evaluations of their programs. The evaluation toolkit is divided into different sections according to the level of knowledge and expertise of the user. For example, there is a beginner’s section that introduces the basic ingredients or concepts of evaluation and provides worksheets to walk the user through the various components of evaluation, including creating logic models; thinking through how to organize, interpret and analyze data; and how to use the results. In addition, the Evaluation Toolkit has more in-depth guidance for users interested in using community evidence to document the culturally specific nature of their work. It includes a Community Centered Evidence Based Practice approach, which is an adapted Evidence Based Practice model for practitioners and evaluators who engage community members in their programming (Serrata et al., in press).

There is also a learning community for those interested in sharing resources and learning more about each other’s work. Our team continues to add new tools. We are in the process of developing measures that capture the added value of culturally specific Domestic Violence organizations.

Here are links to what we have included:

We hope that you will find the toolkit beneficial to your work, and we would love to hear your feedback.

Source: Serrata, J.V., Macias, R.L., Rosales, A., Hernandez-M, M., Rodriguez, R., & Perilla, J.L. (in press). Expanding Evidence-Based Practice Models for Domestic Violence Initiatives: A Community-Centered Approach. Psychology of Violence.

rebecca-casaRebecca Rodriguez, Ph.D. (email: rrodriguez@casadeesperanza.org) is a community psychologist and manager of research and evaluation at the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. Rebecca’s research interests broadly focus on culturally specific and community-centered approaches to prevent family violence in Latino@ families. Her research has examined marital and dating violence by investigating family dynamics (e.g. gender roles, parenting), U.S. immigration policies, and by working directly with Latin@ youth witnesses and survivors of violence in conducting participatory action research on topics they find important to their communities.  Her evaluation work includes participatory and culturally responsive evaluation practices and developing the evaluation capacity of community based organizations.

martha-casaMartha Hernandez-Martinez, MPA (email: mhernandez@casadeesperanza.org) serves as the Research Associate for the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families & Communities. She is originally from Managua-Nicaragua, where she holds a License in Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Her work experience in Nicaragua included providing services to victims of natural disasters and domestic violence, and research on men’s sexual health. In addition, she designed, delivered, and evaluated gender based education programs targeting health workers. Martha moved to the U.S. in 2002, and worked as a community organizer in issues of affordable housing, immigration, and education. Martha also holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Martha’s major interest and passion consist of issues related to the intersections of gender, social norms, intimate partner violence (IPV), healthy masculinities from a Global South perspective, and the impact of public policies on women’s lives (e.g., reproductive health, human rights, development policies).

josieserrata-10Josephine V. Serrata, Ph.D. (email: jserrata@casadeesperanza.org) is a clinical community psychologist and director of research and evaluation at the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families & Communities, a project of Casa de Esperanza. Her research and evaluation work are embedded in practices that are culturally affirming and community driven. Her research includes studying the intersections of domestic violence with issues of oppression, privilege and strength in Latin@ families and communities. Her evaluation experiences have included evaluating community based prevention and engagement efforts, including a leadership intervention for immigrant Latina survivors of domestic violence. Her clinical work focuses on trauma informed, culturally relevant approaches.


Domestic Violence: Be Part of the Conversation

By Katie Ray-Jones


If 12 million people were affected by an epidemic in this country, it would be all over the news. People in every community would be concerned, and you’d hear about it everywhere you went.

What if I told you that there is such an epidemic happening right now in every city and state in the U.S.? But this epidemic is not a disease or a virus. It’s domestic violence.

Domestic violence affects millions of people in the U.S. each year. One in four women and one in seven men are physically abused by an intimate partner, and one in three teens will experience some form of dating abuse. However, these numbers don’t show the entire picture. It’s likely that many victims are suffering in silence and never report their experiences due to fear, shame, and a lack of resources.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and all month long organizations and individuals around the country are working to raise awareness about this important issue. Why is it so crucial to make domestic violence part of our national conversation? On a personal level, anyone can be a victim—or a perpetrator—of relationship abuse, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or background. But domestic violence isn’t just a private, family matter. On a broader cultural level, domestic violence intersects with many of the major social issues of our time, such as affordable housing, LGBTQ rights, and gun laws. This issue is shaped and perpetuated by many of the attitudes and fears that affect our world, like misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we are in a unique position to inform the ongoing conversation about domestic violence. As the only national hotline that provides direct support to anyone affected by intimate partner abuse, we are able to gather data and stories from survivors across the country. In 2014, The Hotline conducted a survey with our chatters about their abusive partners’ access to firearms. Of those who revealed that their partners had access to guns, 22% said their partner had used a gun to make threats, and 67% believed their partner was capable of killing them. These impactful stories and statistics can be used to inform policies that lead to better protections for survivors and our communities.

Many people might feel helpless at the thought of ending domestic violence, but there are many things that we as individuals can do. First and foremost, we must stop blaming victims. No one deserves to be abused for any reason. The person responsible is the person who chooses to be abusive. Second, it’s important that we learn the signs of relationship abuse so that we can recognize when it is happening. It’s also critical that we teach young children the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors. We can do this by being a healthy partner in our own relationships and calling out ideas or behavior that promote violence or abuse. We can all spread the message that love is not abuse.

By accomplishing these seemingly small acts, we can eradicate stigma for victims and begin building better support systems locally and nationally. We can also shine a light on abuse and promote healthy relationships for future generations. These may sound like lofty goals, but I believe that a world where all relationships are positive, healthy and free from violence is possible.

Learn more about The Hotline at www.thehotline.org.

katie-hotlineKatie Ray-Jones is the chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline). She is a recognized leader in the domestic violence movement and has extensive experience working with victims and survivors. Ray-Jones has managed emergency shelter and housing programs as well as nonresidential services for survivors and their children. Prior to being named CEO of The Hotline, she served as operations director and then president of the organization. She serves as treasurer on the board of directors for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and is a member of the National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

PIRC Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month


PIRC is going purple on all of our social media accounts and on the PIRCBlog for the month of October to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Join us by putting a purple filter on your social media pictures and by using the hashtag #DVAM2016! We will also participate in the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s (NNEDV) #31n31 social media campaign by sharing pictures of our own PIRC members and PIRC friends on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts holding signs with one thing that they will do and/or will continue to do for DVAM! Expect a month of DVAM-themed PIRCBlog posts from our colleagues from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Casa de Esperanza, FUTURES Without Violence, and our own PIRC members!

PIRC Executive Director of Research Sharyn Potter and Executive Director of Practice Jane Stapleton stated, “Throughout October, we join our colleagues across the country in remembering survivors of domestic violence. Here at Prevention Innovations, we pledge to redouble our efforts to prevent domestic and gender-based violence. We invite everyone to visit our social media pages throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October and to get involved! Contact your campus crisis center, your state domestic violence coalition or your local domestic violence program for more on what you can do during DVAM.”


Compliance through a Prevention Lens

By LB Klein, MSW, MPA


As I recently attended orientation for my doctoral program, I’ve been reflecting on the seismic shift in how campuses address sexual violence from when I attended undergraduate orientation. Over the past several years, the manner in which we talk about sexual and relationship violence and stalking on campus has fundamentally shifted. Everything related to interpersonal violence on campus has been coded as “Title IX.” This is due to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter explicitly applying the Title IX educational amendment that prohibits sex-based discrimination to gender-based violence. So much has changed since I first attended university orientation back in 2004.

To inform a recent research study I conducted with my colleagues Jill Dunlap and Drew Rizzo, I conducted a series of interviews with campus-based advocacy and prevention professionals around the country. As I attend orientation five years after the Department of Education sent the Dear Colleague Letter, I have been reflecting a lot on one participant’s words:

We’re having a cultural moment right now. Expectations have fundamentally shifted in the past five years around campus sexual violence. It’s possible to use this energy as a lever for broader change. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way that things were in 2010.”

This momentum continues to build. It is incredibly exciting to be a part of this cultural moment that has the potential to inspire significant change on campuses. Back when I attended orientation as an undergraduate student, our orientation programming consisted of a reenactment of an incident of sexual violence. The only dedicated resources on campus were student-run, with little support from the institution beyond the kind-hearted volunteerism of a couple of faculty and staff members. As a student activist, I worked hard to bring attention to these issues, and to do my small part to achieve the kind of attention that campus sexual assault receives today. I did not think that I would see this level of attention to issues of sexual assault on campus in my lifetime, let alone in less than a decade.

While the new elevation of sexual violence to a “Title IX issue” has shifted our practices, there are also dangers with this approach. Another colleague I interviewed for our study pointed to the challenges of this recent shift:

Sexual violence is being treated like a new epidemic taking campuses by storm rather than the endemic societal issue it is. On campuses in particular, there is an increased challenge in separating prevention programming from policy programming. They are being conflated in educational programs, but the pedagogy should not be the same for both. ‘Because the policy says so’ does not change attitudes or culture.”

As my colleague pointed out, we cannot equate legal compliance with addressing the complex set of issues around campus sexual assault, which require a multifaceted response. A “checking the boxes” framework that centers on compliance can be at odds with the fundamental belief of a prevention approach: sexual and relationship violence and stalking is not inevitable. In order to work toward ending gender-based violence, we must truly believe that violence is preventable. As a college student, my peers and I wanted to eradicate rape culture on campus, to ensure survivors had confidential spaces facilitated by highly-trained professionals, and to have prevention programming—not just awareness-raising and scare tactics. We were not that different from many college students today, in that few of us would have considered legal systems the answer to the pervasive issue we saw affecting so many of our classmates and friends.

Title IX language centers violence as a civil rights issue. While this is incredibly helpful in ensuring a timely and appropriate response after an incident of violence occurs, few students are experiencing a sexual assault and considering it a civil rights violation. That can lead community members to only recognize as assault those forms of violence that satisfy their existing definitions for violence. These definitions tend to include less common acts, such as stranger assaults, kidnapping, murder by an intimate partner, use of a weapon, etc. More than a decade has passed since I was an undergraduate student activist, but we are still trying to help people define the continuum of violence and to place blame where it is deserved: with the perpetrator.

In addition, guidance on prevention efforts is actually not included in Title IX. While the Dear Colleague Letter mentions prevention, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) or Violence Against Women Act 304 (VAWA 304) is actually what provides guidance on prevention. The language contained in Campus SaVE/VAWA 304 provides a powerful point of synergy between compliance and prevention: when read closely, it mandates prevention best practice through the definitions it establishes. As I have transitioned from student to professional and back to student again, I have seen how much our systems for disseminating prevention programming have become tied to compliance with laws. While this prioritizes the issue beyond what I could have imagined at age nineteen, it also creates new challenges for prevention professionals.

While my thinking has evolved since I was an undergraduate student activist, I now seek to leverage our new opportunities while keeping a student activist’s perspective in mind. Luckily, Campus SaVE/VAWA 304 provides process but not outcome mandates. It is informed by a public health approach, not one that asserts the possibility of checking a prevention “box.” There is but one simple paragraph about prevention in Campus SaVE/VAWA 304, which states that campuses must provide:

“Primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees including safe and positive options for bystander intervention, information on risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior, and ongoing prevention and awareness programs for students and faculty.”

If we take a deeper look, the committee that crafted this language provides in-depth definitions for some key terms that can often be misunderstood. As a student activist, I would have been thrilled to be able to point to legislation that provided guidance on prevention best practice. Campus SaVE’s definitions prescribe public health processes, including community engagement, sociocultural relevance, assessment, and attention to social-ecological approaches that include diverse stakeholders and more groups than they appear to include on the surface.

For example, when I was going through orientation thirteen years ago, our programming centered my reducing my risk as a woman for being sexually assaulted. I even received a “safety whistle” (sometimes called a rape whistle) in my orientation packet and was told to not walk alone at night, even though I had a required night lab. However, these new regulations shift that problematic definition of risk reduction(emphasis mine):

The term risk reduction refers to approaches that seek to mitigate risk factors that may increase the likelihood of perpetration, victimization, or bystander inaction. Risk reduction focuses on helping individuals and communities address the institutional structures or cultural conditions that facilitate SV, DV & stalking to increase safety.

Cultural and structural changes, as well as taking a bystander approach to prevention, are even a part of a definition of a term like “risk reduction”— a term that would have made me cringe in college. We are making progress.

Compliance through a prevention lens means leveraging new legislation that reflects the comprehensive approach needed to achieve our ultimate goal of ending gender-based violence. To do so, we must work on multiple levels and include everyone in our prevention efforts. The community and structural level shifts that my student activists peers and I demanded are still needed. Thirteen years ago, I remember feeling the opposite of welcome as someone who survived sexual violence before I arrived on campus. Five years ago, as a campus advocacy and prevention program director, I remember immense pushback on simply including a line about resources for sexual assault survivors in orientation materials. Now, as a doctoral student, I am grateful to arrive on a campus at which I can clearly find a cogent policy and locate well-trained staff working to prevent and respond to violence. I hope that the Class of 2050 has a lot to take for granted.

LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW, MPA has dedicated her professional and academic life to ending gender-based violence, supporting survivors, and advancing social justice. She is a Lead Trainer and Curriculum Development Specialist for Prevention Innovations Research Center. She frequently travels around the United States and Canada, and is based in the Raleigh-Durham area, where she is pursuing a doctorate in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

“The Daily Bombardment of Rape Culture on a College Campus”: Part 2

By Olivia Legere

Editorial introduction: Olivia Legere, UNH ’16, carried out an independent study in the Sociology Department under the supervision of Dr. Sharyn Potter, PIRC Executive Director of Research that focused on manifestations of rape culture in the University of New Hampshire (UNH) community. Legere supplemented her work with cartoons that reflected her experience at two bars on Durham’s Main Street that are popular with UNH students. We are publishing Legere’s research in two parts. Part 1 was published last week and Part 2 is below.

Physical control

OL Image 2The most common recurring practice I observed was the use of physical control by men. Every time I went to Bar #1 when it was sufficiently crowded, men would feel my hips and body, sometimes with both hands, before they walked by and said, “Excuse me.” Most of the time they would even physically move me over so they could get by while feeling my body, which I did not want. I called those people on their behavior every time this happened. I also observed men doing this to other women, who often did not call them out, and therefore left an impression that they did not have a problem with this behavior by the men. This would happen on the dance floor, as well as near the tables and bars. I saw this to be an important depiction of rape culture because first of all, in each of these instances, the men could easily have gotten by me or around me without touching me at all, and without me even noticing them. The fact that they felt like their touch is not only acceptable, but wanted, is problematic. They feel that since I am there, I must want some sort of attention. Most of the men who touched me did so with pressure and intention. I believe that they wanted me to feel their grip on my body, which disgusted me and made me uncomfortable. I also believe that it was making them feel manly and in control.

This is an obvious indicator of gender inequality. Heterosexual men wouldn’t touch other men’s hips and bodies when they needed to get by them. They would make themselves smaller, and if needed they would tap them on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” Women, when they need to get by someone, make themselves smaller to fit through the space and try to do so without touching anyone. If they do touch someone, they apologize and say, “Excuse me.”  Men approaching women from behind is central to a lot of the themes in my research.

False Friendliness and Chivalry

When men would approach me and try and engage in small talk, I could see right through their intention. Often, men would use my arm tattoo as an excuse to touch me. They would ask me personal questions, but they would do so in a friendly and innocent manner, implying they were just trying to be nice. Sometimes I did think that they were just trying to be nice. On other occasions, they would lead the conversation to them asking me where I lived, or if I would like to “hang out with them after the bar.” At 12 am? Or, they would start touching me in ways that I did not want, invite, or appreciate. Sometimes, when I would express disinterest, they would get defensive, saying “I’m just trying to be nice,” when their behavior was getting aggressive.

Also, men would often bring up drinking in conversation by asking me what I was drinking, and if I needed another drink. I always said no, and sometimes they would still insist on buying me one. This theme outlines the idea that men’s perception of chivalry is that, if they are not vulgar and demeaning, then they are nice and chivalrous, and that all women should appreciate that they are somehow different than most men. This cartoon is based on an encounter that I witnessed between two friends and two men who acted like they wanted to dance around and have a good time, but then immediately started grinding with them and groping them. The two friends respectfully stopped dancing with the men, and the men walked away calling them sluts.

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Going to the bar while doing this research made me realize just how unaware most of us are of our surroundings and our behavior. The problems that I observed were seemingly invisible to most, since they have their alcohol blinders on while they are out at night. The men that walk by and grab women, the men that grope you as they try and get by you, and the women who watch and judge other women—having internalized sexism that leads them to “other” themselves from other women, particularly sex positive women, by calling them sluts—all of these people are unknowingly adding fuel to the fire that is rape culture. Alcohol is a big reason why rape culture is so invisible in society, because it blurs people’s inhibitions and feelings on consent, making it difficult for them to act the way that they would if they were more aware of their own actions and their impact.

oliviaOlivia Legere is a recent graduate from UNH with a Degree in Sociology with a focus on Women’s & Queer Studies. She grew up in Newmarket, NH but has recently moved to Portland, Maine to work with immigrants and refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries as a case manager. In her free time she likes to draw, play in the woods, critically assess her socialization to the world around her, snuggle with her cats and deconstruct social norms. Her big goals in life are to spend time on every continent, and eventually change the world.

“The Daily Bombardment of Rape Culture on a College Campus”: Part 1

By Olivia Legere

Editorial introduction: Olivia Legere, UNH ’16, carried out an independent study in the Sociology Department under the supervision of Dr. Sharyn Potter, PIRC Executive Director of Research, that focused on manifestations of rape culture in the University of New Hampshire (UNH) community. Legere supplemented her work with cartoons that reflected her experience at two bars on Durham’s Main Street that are popular with UNH students. We are publishing Legere’s research in two parts. Part 1 is below and Part 2 will appear next week.

“The Daily Bombardment of Rape Culture on a College Campus” is the title of the independent observational research I conducted under Dr. Sharyn Potter in Durham, NH. I went to two bars frequented by UNH students (Bar #1 and Bar #2) in downtown Durham and wrote about my experience as a woman in public spaces. I use my experience to comment on the prevalence and influence of rape culture on the college campus where I studied and conducted research.

Rape culture is invisible to most people. Some people feel like men and women are equal and we have already progressed as far as possible toward total gender parity, and others feel like they are drowning in a culture that objectifies them. Rape culture is mostly exposed at nighttime, often when alcohol is being used, and tends to occur in closed spaces like bars or parties rather than out in the open. At UNH, if you are not going to Bar #1, or to any parties, you could be blissfully unaware of what young women experience when they attempt to enjoy themselves at a party or at commercial establishments where young people congregate at night.

Before moving forward it is crucial to discuss the term rape culture. It can have harsh implications, much as feminism can. Both of these terms are often interpreted as exclusionary and accusatory of men, instead of signaling that there is an inequality in society that needs the attention and acceptance of everyone. I would argue that masculinity, not men, is the driving force behind gender inequality. The constant pressure to “be a man” creates an anything-goes ideology for men to not only achieve a particular standard of masculinity, but to prove it to their peers. Women are oppressed by men and men are oppressed by masculinity. The problem that rape culture brings up is that often the people who most take part in, and support, this ideology think that their behavior is reasonable based on past experiences. If their behavior has never been questioned, why would they question it?

The purpose of my study was to document the references and messages to rape culture that men and women experience when they are out at night in Durham, NH. For three months, I visited two bars an average of twice a week to document my observations on the differences between male and female experiences in those places. I did this as part of my study focused on the sexualization of women, sexualized dancing at parties and bars, sexual coercion, and slut shaming. At Bar #1 and Bar #2, I saw reoccurring themes that I will later discuss in detail such as: physical control, hit and run groping, false chivalry, and what happens when you call men out for their behavior.

There is a strong heteronormative culture in the places where I conducted observation, so my data is focused mostly on heterosexual white males, and how the ideas and goals of masculinity relate to rape culture. I will also not be discussing race, ethnicity or religion in regards to rape culture, mostly because I almost exclusively observed interactions between white people, likely due to the fact that UNH’s student body is predominantly white.

 Hit and Run Groping

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Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of unwanted groping while observing for this project. Most instances occurred indoors, but two of them happened on the street. The first time I was touched without my consent during my research period, I was outside of a Durham restaurant, enjoying a slice of cheese pizza, when I felt a firm grab of my butt. I immediately turned around and saw a man walking quickly away from me, assuming I would not say anything—although of course I did. The other time that this happened on Durham’s Main Street, I was walking past a line of people waiting to get into Bar #2, and a man reached out and grabbed my backside. I turned around to see who it was, but it was impossible to tell since there were so many men in a small area. I was shocked, and I also noted the speed and focus it took to violate me anonymously.

The rest of my experiences of hit and run groping happened in Bar #1. Since it is so crowded in Bar #1, I think that the men who behave this way believe that they can get away with more. A couple of these hit-and-run gropings occurred when I was alone, instead of with my friends, and being less attentive to my surroundings. For example, once I was texting my friend who was supposed to meet me at Bar #1 when two men walked by me, and both quickly slapped my butt. By the time I turned around, no one was there. It was heartbreaking how many times my body was touched without my permission. When I would call these men out on their behavior, they would immediately call me ugly, a slut, or a bitch.

–> PART II of “The Daily Bombardment of Rape Culture on a College Campus” will be posted to PIRCBlog next week!

oliviaOlivia Legere is a recent graduate from UNH with a Degree in Sociology with a focus on Women’s & Queer Studies. She grew up in Newmarket, NH but has recently moved to Portland, Maine to work with immigrants and refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries as a case manager. In her free time she likes to draw, play in the woods, critically assess her socialization to the world around her, snuggle with her cats and deconstruct social norms. Her big goals in life are to spend time on every continent, and eventually change the world.

When It Comes to Ending College Sexual Assault, We All Need to be Leaders

By Elizabeth Wilmerding, PIRCBlog guest

*Originally published on the FUTURES Without Violence Blog on April 14th, 2016*


Last month, I had the opportunity to join the ten other FUTURES Campus Leaders for a meeting at the White House with members of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Launched in January 2014, the Task Force’s goal is to “help schools live up to their obligation to protect students from sexual violence.” As someone who has been working in the field of sexual violence prevention for the past seven years, and as a current master’s student in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, it was an incredibly thrilling experience to meet with the federal officials charged with ending such violence once and for all.

While the members of the Task Force have great expertise and influence, I’ve learned that it takes leadership at every level to create sustainable change. As I sat in the meeting room in the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building, I was particularly impressed with the work each of my fellow Campus Leaders has been doing in their community. From awareness campaigns and peer education to campus policy advocacy and staff training, each leader offered a critical perspective into how to create safer campus communities.

The significance of leadership across all levels was highlighted for me when I returned to Berkeley in the days following the Task Force meeting. The university has been trying to address a recent flood of allegations that involve a lack of consistency when it comes to holding faculty and staff accountable when they harass or assault students and colleagues. While this is not a new issue for the school (in fact, the University of California formed its own system-wide task force in the summer of 2014 to address sexual assault on all of its ten campuses), students and community members have been speaking up more than ever before.

We are at a critical juncture when it comes to preventing sexual violence on college campuses. Those of us who have been on the ground doing the work have felt this movement building for some time. People who are new to the issue are often simultaneously shocked by the prevalence of sexual assault and eager to jump in and do their part to create change. And, all the while, more survivors are bravely contributing in any way they can―from taking care of themselves and getting support, to widely sharing their stories.

It’s time for us to acknowledge the power of leadership coming from every level. As exciting as it is to join other student leaders in meeting with the White House Task Force, it’s far from enough. We need everyone on campus—undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, administrators—and everyone who cares about the campus community—prospective college students, parents of students, alumnae, legislators—to stand together. Each and every member of a college campus community deserves safety and respect, and it’s on us to hold schools accountable until it happens.


Elizabeth Wilmerding is currently a first-year master’s student in UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and an intern at FUTURES Without Violence. She has a background in the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicidality. Elizabeth lives in Oakland, CA.