The Center Violence Prevention at the University of Utah, approved in July 2020, aspires to become a national leader in the effort to reduce relationship and sexual violence among U.S. college students. Using a power-conscious, intersectional framework, the center is designed to bridge the gap between research and practice. It brings together the expertise of researchers, prevention educators, students and survivors of relationship and sexual violence to execute a comprehensive research agenda focused on relationship and sexual violence prevention and to disseminate knowledge across the U.S.
Despite decades of research, numerous questions still remain about the dynamics of relationship and sexual violence (RSV) among college students as well as the effectiveness of strategies for addressing this behavior. Specifically, most research about RSV examines the experiences of heterosexual, white cisgender women. Emerging research suggests that perpetrators may target queer and trans students, students of color, and students with disabilities at even higher rates than their peers.
Further, most of the current research on RSV examines what makes someone at risk for violence, yet fails to examine patterns of violence, resulting in limited strategies for intervening with potential perpetrators.
Finally, existing research on RSV examines the problem using college students as a convenience sample, yet does not include attention to the unique dynamics of college contexts, the organization of higher education and college student development.
Therefore, the Center for Violence Prevention will focus on research and practice that addresses RSV from a power-conscious, intersectional lens, including attention to historically minoritized populations. Additionally, the center will focus its prevention efforts on better understanding and analyzing perpetration and peer culture as it relates to RSV. Specifically, in its first three years, the Center for Violence Prevention will:
- Provide professional development opportunities for campus community members to learn more about RSV prevention
- Engage researchers in education and professional development to conduct critically-conscious research, with a specific focus on perpetration and peer culture
- Engage practitioners in opportunities to develop more critically-conscious educational programs and interventions for perpetrators
- Develop and conduct comprehensive campus climate studies (including interviews, focus groups, and media analysis) at college campuses across the U.S.
- Host a symposium for researchers and educators from across the country to generate ideas for research and practice related to the prevention of RSV
- Provide seed-grant funding for interdisciplinary research projects focused explicitly on prevention of RSV
- Coordinate research teams involving faculty, staff and students to engage in interdisciplinary research about RSV