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The McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention engages in and supports research about sexual violence among college students. The center brings together multidisciplinary research teams of students, staff and faculty to carry out this work.

The center's research projects specifically focus on investigating issues that will help administrators, student groups and other partners understand peer culture on college campuses, the people who cause harm, their harmful behaviors and how to stop sexual violence.

Below are descriptions of and links to completed research projects as well as synopses of ongoing projects.

MCVP Research Affiliates Program

The MCVP Research Affiliates program brings scholar-practitioners together to conduct collaborative, critical research aimed at the primary prevention of sexual violence among college students. Current Research Affiliates collaborate on research projects with MCVP staff

Currently, the Center staff and Research Affiliates are engaged in three research teams. The first team aims to understand the motivations of college students that commit harm and perpetrate sexual violence. The second project is centered on exploring student survivors’ perceptions of
justice in relation to sexual violence. The final team is focused on understanding respondents’ experiences with Title IX processes to be able to promote more effective education and transformation through engagement in such processes.

Researchers affiliated with the Center engage in various aspects of the research process, from reviewing current scholarship about sexual violence, designing and implementing research projects, analyzing data, and disseminating findings. Research Affiliates are expected to maintain
a commitment to on-going personal and professional development related to understanding power in research processes and a commitment to engaging theory to practice. Research Affiliates must maintain current IRB training and consistently participate in research team
meetings related to the project in which they are engaged.

Currently, our research teams and Research Affiliate program are full, but please let us know if you would like us to contact you about future opportunities. Please send a brief email with information about your background and areas of interest to MCVP post-doctoral research associate, Nadeeka Karunaratne at

On (Not) Speaking the same language: Understanding how college students describe intimate partner violence (completed)

Understanding how college students talk about sexual violence is a must to ensure that campus educational materials, processes and policies are written and communicated in shared language. In this study, researchers examined the language students use to describe their experiences with sexual violence and perceptions of campus safety versus the language used in university materials. Researchers found that students tend to describe experiences through behaviors (i.e., manipulation, control) rather than terminology encompassing those behaviors (i.e., domestic violence). Students also don’t regard “campus safety” measures as connected to their own relationship experiences. The team concludes that this disconnect of terminology and understanding has far-reaching implications for research and prevention measures. Understanding how students perceive, talk about, experience, and counsel one another around issues of intimate partner violence/dating and sexual violence will inform more effective efforts to make college campuses (and our larger community) safer.

The principal investigators for this project were: Chris Linder, associate professor, Educational Leadership & Policy, College of Education; Jessie Richards, assistant professor, Management, Eccles College of Business; Heather Melton, associate professor, Sociology, College of Social and Behavioral Science; Adrienne Griffiths, doctoral graduate ‘22, Sociology; Hannah Lund, BS’22 Sociology and Criminology; Charnell Peters, assistant professor, Department of Communication, Saint Louis University.

Read the full report at this link.


Exploring the Impact of Clery Act Timely Warnings on Student Experiences, Perceptions, and Behavior (In Progress)

The Clery Act of 1990 and its subsequent iterations require campuses to issue timely warnings when immediate safety concerns are present and to issue annual reports of crime data to the campus community. The purpose of this safety information is to help members of the community make informed decisions about their personal safety since knowing where and when crime happens may contribute to preventing some types of crime (Clery Center, n.d.). Even though many students read timely warning alerts (Adams-Clark et al., 2020), rates of violence have not declined on college campuses since the implementation of the Act (Muehlenhard et al., 2017; Shafer, 2007).

The purpose of this research study is to build a protocol for bettering understanding college students’ responses to Clery timely warnings, specifically related to sexual violence.

The results of this study will inform current practices of University of Utah administrators related to implementing Clery warnings and will provide a structure for research on other campuses about timely warnings. After building the research protocol, we anticipate working with other campuses to expand the research nationally, with the goal of influencing national policy related to sexual violence prevention.

Principal investigators for this project are: Heather Melton, associate professor, Sociology, College of Social and Behavioral Science; Jessie Richards, assistant professor, Management, Eccles College of Business; Kevin Coe, professor, Department of Communication, College of Humanities; Allie Moore, graduate student, MPA, College of Social and Behavioral Science; Whitney Hills, associate director for education, McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention; and Nahum Tadesse, undergraduate student.