Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide

Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization

The Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization (LIVV) takes a multidisciplinary approach to exploring intimate partner violence (IPV) through research aimed to create, test and disseminate novel ways to ameliorate the morbidity and mortality associated with IPV. Additionally, LIVV works to bridge research with practice in the community with the goal of assisting community partners in identifying evidence-based approaches to eradicating violence. As part of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, LIVV benefits from the expertise of the diverse faculty and staff at the University and includes researchers at other academic institutions, including the Family Violence Clinic at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law (UB Clinic) and Roberts Wesleyan College. Through collaboration with community domestic violence agencies and the local criminal justice system, LIVV has been able to establish a successful track record of research, education, and consultation. LIVV provides services across several sectors, including medical, educational, legal, and social services systems.

Faculty & Staff

Director:

Members:

Research

LIVV’s projects center around three areas of focus: community service, education, and research. The community service LIVV initiatives are achieved through numerous collaborations. LIVV is able to effectively facilitate open discussions about various domestic violence issues with groups comprised of community leaders from criminal and family court, social service agencies, health care providers, and government. By brining all these groups to the table, resources and creative solutions can be optimized. The education component of LIVV provides IPV awareness training courses to students, faculty, and fellows at the University of Rochester and through the UB Clinic. The primary objectives of these educational endeavors are to enhance the understanding of how law and policy can impact health in the community, particularly the health of vulnerable populations. Education programs provide the foundation for future initiatives addressing IPV though program development, policy change, research and other projects aimed at positive change. Research is critical to LIVV’s success. Twice each month LIVV seminars provide a forum for researchers to come together and share project ideas, current work, and potential publication.The collegial atmosphere of the seminars creates an environment where suggestions, criticism, and ideas are welcomed. Each member of the group is dedicated to conducting methodical and high quality research aimed at IPV prevention. Most importantly, these services are largely provided at no cost to the community.

Partners

Monroe County Family Court

LIVV has a well established history of collaboration with the Monroe County Family Court. Monroe County’s Domestic Violence Intensive Intervention Court has been the location of numerous research projects and LIVV trainings. The Court was New York State’s first established domestic violence court. The Court was the site of a ground-breaking randomized control trial seeking to link victims at court with mental health services. Additional resources are provided by the Court through partnerships with Alternatives for Battered Women, Inc., Domestic Violence Intervention Unit of the Monroe County Office of Probation, Legal Aid Society, Inc. of Rochester, and Delphi and the Men’s Program.

Alternatives for Battered Women, Inc. (ABW)

ABW is a strong community partner for LIVV. ABW is the only domestic violence shelter in Monroe County. Services at ABW are not limited to the emergency residential shelter but include a hotline, transitional services, and a court advocacy program. ABW has been the location of several LIVV research projects and trainings. ABW was a co-sponsor of a national LIVV conference.The Executive Director, as well as other ABW staff, have provided important feedback and guidance on many LIVV projects, acted as consultants and are beginning to create their own research portfolio.

Step by Step, Inc.

Step by Step located in Rochester, NY, is an agency dedicated to working with formerly incarcerated women, currently incarcerated women, and women at risk of incarceration. Workshops aimed at improved mental health outcomes and reduced recidivism are offered to women incarcerated at Albion Correctional Facility and Monroe County Jail. LIVV has partnered with Step by Step to assist with the evaluation of Step by Step workshops. The goal of LIVV’s evaluation is to improve and standardize programming so that it may be used to help other incarcerated women, many of whom have experienced domestic violence. Step by Step is also a valuable community partner by providing insight into the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women when planning the study design.

UB Family Violence Clinic

The UB Clinic serves as a legal resource for those with resource limitations and addresses IPV prevention. IPV education is provided to law student participating in the clinic and to clinic clients. The UB Clinic is partially funded through the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. LIVV has developed a strong relationship with the UB clinic, often sharing resources and collaborative efforts. UB Law was a sponsor of the recent LIVV conference.

Roberts Wesleyan College

Roberts Wesleyan College is a liberal arts college with emphasis on a Christian viewpoint. The members of the social work department have partnered with LIVV to research and explore issues of IPV. The partnership with Roberts Wesleyan gives a unique perceptive from the view point of those in the field of social work as well as the role of religion in IPV prevention. Members of the Roberts Wesleyan faculty participate in the LIVV research seminars.

Projects

The Impact of Gender-Specific Programming on Women’s Recidivism

Research supported by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has raised awareness of the need for gender-specific programming for incarcerated women1. As the number of women being incarcerated increases, this need becomes more pressing. Step by Step of Rochester, Inc. (SbS) has partnered with the University of Rochester’s Department of Psychiatry’s Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization (LIVV), and the Monroe County Jail and Correctional Facility (MCJCF) to develop this project. SbS and LIVV have a long standing history of collaboration on prison based projects. The study will evaluate the relationship between SbS programming and:

  • An increase in unsentenced women’s self-esteem
  • Reduced recidivism for the subset of participating women released to the community
  • The use of subjects as key informants to inform next steps in gender-specific programming both behind bars and in the community

The aims of the study are to:

  • Conduct 3 anonymous focus groups of 10 unsentenced women at MCJCF to gain a better understanding of their programming desires and to obtain feedback regarding the SbS program.
  • Review a random sample of jail booking records, including medical screening, mental health referrals, the booking officer’s visual opinions, and a suicide prevention screening.
  • Finalize the intervention manual, assessment instruments, and facilitator-training curriculum prior to testing the intervention’s effect.
  • Evaluate the feasibility (e.g., recruitment, retention, satisfaction, acceptability) of testing the intervention with 100 incarcerated women at the MCJCF.
  • Characterize the participants’ depression and trauma symptoms, self-esteem, social function, substance abuse history, and incarceration histories.
  • Provide support for future studies.

The intervention under is an 8-session workshop designed by SbS to encompass strength-based principles and narrative theory to form a gender-specific program. SbS uses a mixture of group and individual activities to present and develop the themes of each session. For 15 years, SbS has offered strength-based workshops to incarcerated women, and over 4,000 women have participated in them.

IPV Technology Abuse Scale Validity Study

This longitudinal prospective study examines abuse via technology (AVT), the new frontier. Over 3 million Americans were the victims of stalking in 2006, with the most reported stalking activity being phone calls and messages. Stalking behaviors have been linked to other intimate partner violence (IPV) acts, such as physical and sexual assaults. Even before technological advancements that permit AVT, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared violence as the leading public health issue. The past few decades have focused on screening, assessment, referral and services among myriad providers: social service organizations, criminal justice agencies, and medical communities. Despite decades of work, new studies report prevalence rates are as high as 44% for women and 29% for men. Although we have a number of partners working towards ameliorating IPV, much work remains.

IPV victims report increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. However, stalking victims report more distress, increased levels of fear, and more severe IPV victimization. This grant seeks to ameliorate the health burdens among AVT victims by the implementation of a new measure, the Technology Abuse Scale (TAS). This scale is designed to assist service providers in documenting AVT during interview processes to enhance safety planning. This grant seeks to:

  • Measure the validity of the TAS among a cohort of individuals seeking protection orders (PO). (This is already underway via departmental funding).
  • Assess the associations between AVT, as measured by the TAS, on participants’ physical and mental health.
  • Assess whether AVT tactics are correlated with increased risk to victims by comparing the TAS scores with measures of physical, psychological and sexual violence.
  • Examine whether PO petitions, and subsequent orders, which include the TAS in the interview stage, result in more restrictive POs and enhanced safety.

The Constitution’s First Amendment provides freedom of speech but should not protect perpetrators from unrestricted abuse. Courts acknowledge the tension with holding perpetrators accountable for using foul language, disparaging remarks and raised voices. While a line of slander and libel civil cases provide relief for victims, criminal and family courts are ill-equipped to address such issues and often find them outside the scope of their jurisdiction.

Perpetrators use AVT knowing there are issues with proving the identity of the sender, the jurisdictions involved, and the intent beyond a reasonable doubt – all required for prosecution. The internet gives perpetrators the ability to refine their messages and directly target their victims while providing anonymity, asynchronicity, and accessibility. The push of one button can have a powerful effect on victims’ lives. Yet, many service providers do not screen for AVT or include such events in PO requests.

The study’s findings will assist practitioners to hold perpetrators accountable for AVT, move information into legal proceedings, and substantiate resultant health consequences. Investigators have partnered with a national Scientific Advisory Board comprised of physicians, attorneys, psychologists, and practitioners, as well as a Community Advisory Board, comprised of myriad providers, to assist in the design, implementation, analysis and dissemination of the findings to ensure policy and procedural changes if warranted.

Trauma and Health: Survivor’s Mind-Body Connection

Pain is a common and debilitating concern among intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors. Victims, especially those with pain, also suffer from depression and often co-morbid post-traumatic stress disorder. Little is known about how these issues work together to both doubly stigmatize victims and/or prevent them for seeking help to alleviate the violence in their lives. It is important to assess IPV survivors’ experiences with depression, physical pain, and their ideas regarding interdisciplinary treatment preferences and where such services should be offered. This project conducted focus groups with women who have either personal or vicarious experiences (daughter, friend, parent) with intimate partner violence (‘IPV’) to:

  • Understand perceptions regarding IPV survivors’ experiences with physical pain
  • Obtain information about the feasibility of mind-body interventions for pain among IPV survivors
  • Identify where such interventions would be best located to maximize participation and to reach underserved populations
  • Determine the feasibility of collecting blood and saliva samples from IPV survivors with physical pain
  • Understanding the pain/depression connection for those with vicarious trauma who work with IPV victims

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