Research & Scholarship

The McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention will support the development of research to prevent relationship and sexual violence among college students. Over the next several years, we will seek funding to support research teams consisting of faculty, staff and students. Specifically, the research must be focused on primary prevention with a focus on perpetration or peer culture and research teams must include at least one person engaged in practical application of the research findings.

Currently, students, faculty and staff affiliated with the center are engaged in two research projects related to relationship and sexual violence among college students. They are:

How college students describe and experience intimate partner violence:
A University of Utah landscape study

Campus Intimate Partner Violence (CIPV) impacts significant numbers of students on college and university campuses across the U.S. Unfortunately, college students may not identify their experiences with intimate partner violence as such because the language they use to describe their experiences may differ from educational materials university administrators use to describe CIPV. Additionally, on most campuses, website and campus-wide messaging rarely mentions “intimate partner violence” or related terms, including dating and relationship violence, stalking and coerced sex in relationships. Instead, campus communication primarily focuses on “campus safety” as opposed to relationship violence. Without a shared vocabulary or explicit attention to CIPV, students’ beliefs about dating or relationship violence may result in the minimization of their own or their peers’ experiences with and reports of harm.

Utilizing case-study methodology influenced by a power-conscious framework, we are collecting and analyzing data over one calendar year for a comprehensive landscape study of how students at the University of Utah understand and discuss CIPV. Our interdisciplinary team of researchers includes undergraduate and graduate students. Data for this study includes documents describing educational programs, policies and protocols; focus groups with students; and interviews with staff. We intend to develop shared or common terminology for discussing CIPV and to provide insight for educators and administrators striving to educate students about CIPV.

Recruitment for focus groups for this project is currently underway.

The principal investigators for this project are: Chris Linder, Educational Leadership & Policy, College of Education; Jessie Richards, Management, Eccles College of Business; Heather Melton, Sociology, College of Social and Behavioral Science.

More Information

Patterns of Perpetration Study

Between 10-25% of college men have engaged in perpetration of coerced sex, yet most do not identify their behavior as such. In fact, Abbey and colleagues (2012) suggest that college men have a difficult time distinguishing between “coercion” and “seduction” (i.e., the role of power in coerced sexual assault). Further, because sex education in most of the U.S. is ineffective, many young people learn about sex through watching pornography rather than talking with trusted adults about how to engage in equitable, consensual, pleasurable sexual behaviors. Lack of knowledge and unequal distributions of power contribute to a lack of understanding about patterns of perpetration of sexual violence among college students.

Further, research about campus sexual violence largely centers on understanding factors for victimization, not perpetration. In one study examining 10 years of research on campus sexual violence, fewer than 10% of articles focused on perpetration; more than 50% focused on victimization. The limited research that does exist about campus perpetration patterns overly centers alcohol as a factor, leaving examinations of power and peer culture out of the equation.

Therefore, we seek to better understand patterns of sexual violence perpetration among college students through a mixed methods study. First, we will survey college students using the Sexual Strategies Scale to better understand rates of perpetration in our local environment. Next, we will engage in a phenomenological research design to better understand college students’ relationship to and understanding of healthy sexual behaviors. Specifically, we will recruit at least 100 college students to participate in two interviews and to maintain a sexual behaviors journal for one semester.

We will recruit a research team in Fall 2020 and begin the study in Spring 2021.