Starting the Conversation

How collaborations are advancing gender-based violence research and training at UNC-Chapel Hill

by Jessica Porter
The following is reprinted with permission from Endeavors, the UNC Research online magazine.

In January 2015, college students flocked to campus showings of “The Hunting Ground.” While dozens of universities appear in the film, it has a clear focus. As images of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, Polk Place, and Bell Tower flash across the screen during the two-minute trailer, alumna Annie Clark says: “The first few weeks I made some of my best friends, but two of us were sexually assaulted before classes even started.”

Clark and fellow alumna Andrea Pino were heavily featured in the documentary, which shined a light on the issue of college sexual assault. The Sundance Film Festival marked the two “among a growing, unstoppable network of young women who will no longer be silent.” College sexual assault, though, is just one type of gender-based violence, a topic that has received increased attention both domestically and internationally in recent years.

As activism and awareness for gender-based violence have increased — broadly and at UNC — so has the push for research on the topic. Stephanie DeLong, a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology, is just one of a number of students focused on this type of research at Carolina. She, specifically, examines partner violence among adolescents in northeastern South Africa.

DeLong quickly learned she wasn’t the only student on campus who saw a need to bring different types of gender-based violence research together. She partnered with fellow epidemiology student Aliza Gellman-Chomsky and Marta Mulawa from the Department of Health Behavior. They discussed the value of increasing collaborations across departments. “There were a lot of people doing this work, but we were scattered all over campus,” she says.

To bring this research together, the trio sent out a series of emails to multiple departments within Gillings to gage interest in the project. Three years later, those emails and enthusiasm have blossomed into a more formal collaboration involving students, faculty, practitioners, and other researchers from UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, School of Medicine, School of Social Work, Student Wellness, and Carolina Women’s Center.

Today, the UNC Gender-Based Violence Research Group (GBVRG) collaborates on manuscripts, advocates for student training opportunities, hosts speakers every month, and holds an annual summit to raise awareness about gender-based violence and research occurring at Carolina. On April 6, this year’s summit, called “Violence Across the Life Course,” will touch on child abuse, violence during adolescence, sexual assault on college campuses, and intimate partner violence.

Steve Marshall, the director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, will kick off the event with opening remarks. The center co-sponsored GBVRG’s first summit and will act as a partner again this year. “Gender-based violence is a big, complex social issue,” Marshall says. “If we are going to have an impact on it, we need interdisciplinary research that gets to the root cause.”

Marshall has been on board with GBVRG’s work since day one. He was initially drawn to the group because of its extraordinary network within different departments. “The faculty members are so busy that we don’t always step back and look at the big picture,” Marshall says. “Sometimes our students see the linkages between these topics better than we do!”

Sandra Martin, the associate dean for research in Gillings, knows this better than anyone. Last year, a survey fromGBVRG spurred the researcher to reinvent one of her past courses. Years ago, when she first started lecturing at UNC, Martin taught “Violence Against Women” and then “Research Methods.” She put both courses on the back burner to focus on her research on violence against children and women.

In 2014, though, Martin began receiving email inquiries from students about gender-based violence courses. She knew she couldn’t fill a classroom with the few students reaching out to her via email, but she wondered if more students were interested. Luckily, GBVRG sent out another email to see what kind of courses public health students wanted to take. “They came to me and told me that students wanted to take my class,” Martin says, “which was great because I wanted to teach it again!”

Last fall, Martin taught a class called “Gender-Based Violence.” To create the curriculum, she combined research from her past courses with new studies on men and transgender people. “It really tries to incorporate the latest research and topics into the class,” Martin says. “Classes should change as the knowledge base grows.”

The course is restricted to graduate students and meets once a week for three hours. During the first half of the class, Martin typically invites guest speakers to give presentations. Students then have the opportunity to network with the speakers, which sometimes leads to collaborations on projects. These kinds of relationships are extremely important in the field of gender-based violence, according to Martin.

She believes that her course and the work of GBVRG lay the foundation for the future. “It is more than just a class or a summit,” Martin says. “These individuals are the next generation of researchers that will go on to end gender-based violence.”

Stephanie DeLong is a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a founder and one of the student leaders in the UNCGender-Based Violence Research Group.

Steve Marshall is the director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. He is also a professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Sandra Martin is the associate dean for research in the UNCGillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Maternal and Child Health. Last year, she helped coordinate the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct at UNC-Chapel Hill.

For the full article & other news from UNC Endeavors, please visit them here.

Upcoming Doris Duke Fellowship Meeting Keynote on Child Well-Being

Please join us for the Keynote to the Doris Duke Fellowships for the Promotion of Child Well-being Annual Meeting, on Wednesday, April 6 at 11:15 at the UNC School of Social Work Tate-Turner-Kuralt Auditorium. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the Rutgers School of Social Work, to present “Measuring Child Well-Being in Practice: Reconciling Measurement Approaches with Theory.”

The field of child well-being has many well-validated instruments; however, the phenomenon that these instruments purport to measure remains poorly articulated and highly disparate. This situation has arisen because the theory of child well-being remains relatively underdeveloped relative to measurement. Consequently, and in contrast to other scholarly disciplines, theory has not driven the measurement of child well-being.

In this talk, Professor Ramesh Raghavan articulates the Two Sources theory of child well-being, an approach to thinking about child well-being developed primarily from the philosophy of childhood. Based on this theory, he evaluates existing measurement approaches to determine the extent to which they are theoretically grounded. He concludes by outlining an approach to measurement that is practicable while being theoretically valid.

Doris Duke Keynote FlyerThis years Keynote is sponsored by:

UNC Injury Prevention Research Center
UNC School of Social Work
The Center for Developmental Science
Duke Center for Child and Family Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago



Join us at the 2016 GBV Summit on April 6 at UNC Chapel Hill!

The UNC Gender-Based Violence Research Group and UNC Injury Prevention Research Center will be hosting our annual Gender-Based Violence Summit on April 6 from 1:30-4:30 pm, in Rosenau Hall 133.

The focus of the summit will be “Violence Across the Life Course” with domestic and internationally-focused talks given by UNC Doctoral Students. The full agenda is available here. Coffee, tea, and light refreshments will be available. Attendance is free and open to the UNC community and general public. Registration is not required.

Please contact Stephanie DeLong at with any questions about the summit.GBV Summit Public Agenda


Upcoming Law Enforcement and Community Summit on Heroin in North Carolina

HRC logoThe North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition will be hosting a statewide summit on Thursday, May 12th, at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh.

Law enforcement and community leaders will gather at the legislature to discuss legislative solutions to reducing the negative impacts of Heroin in our communities. Law enforcement and community leaders will discuss increasing access to naloxone, syringe exchange, law enforcement angel programs, law enforcement assisted diversion, increasing access to social services, detox and rehabilitation activities.

Event Location:  North Carolina General Assembly, 16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27601

Event Date: Thursday, May 12,  8:45 AM – 1 PM

Contact: Robert Childs, 336-543-8050,

Sign up at:

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Thomas Bashore, Chief of Police, Nashville Police Department, Nashville, NC
  • Tessie Castillo, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Raleigh, NC
  • Michael Cardwell, Lieutenant, Winston Salem Police Department, NC
  • Robert Childs, MPH,  Executive Director, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Wilmington, NC
  • William H. Hollingsed, Chief of Police, Waynesville Police Department, Waynesville, NC
  • John Ingram, Sheriff, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Bolivia, NC
  • Jim Johnson, Ret. Chief of Police, Huntington Police Department,Huntington, WV
  • Melissia Larson, Grants Administrator, Pitt County Sheriff, Greenville, NC
  • Mike Page, Community Advocate, Wilmington, NC
  • Lars Paul, Captain of Internal Affairs, Fayetteville Police Department,Fayetteville, NC
  • Scott Proescholdbell, MPH, Epidemiologist, Injury and Violence Prevention Branch, DHHS, Raleigh, NC
  • Donnie Varnell, Ret. Special Agent in Charge, State Bureau of Investigation/Harm Reduction Policing Coordinator, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Mateo, NC

Upcoming conference on LGBTQ suicide prevention

12744196_1021563771244107_3094203134870538261_nThe North Carolina Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is excited to announce that it will present its first North Carolina LGBTQ “Research to Real Life” Conference to be held Monday, August 15th at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, NC.

The theme for this conference is: Using what we know from research and lived experiences to fight suicide in the LGBTQ Communities.

Our expected audience will include anyone who wants to learn more about LGBTQ specific issues regarding suicide, including but not limited to:

  • mental health professionals and staff;
  • other health professionals and staff;
  • elementary, middle, and high school faculty and staff;
  • college and university faculty and staff;
  • volunteers and staff from LGBTQ community centers and support groups;
  • family and friends of the LGBTQ community;
  • anyone volunteering or working in a service oriented industry;
  • religious and spiritual community members;
  • grassroots LGBTQ organizations;
  • local and national LGBTQ organizations;
  • and of course the LGBTQ community at large.

NC AFSP are planning an entire day with breakout sessions, as well as keynote speakers and a plenary panel on lived experience.

Volunteers are needed! The greatest need for volunteers will be the day of the event – helping to set up; helping vendors and sponsors set up; helping speakers get settled; helping with registration for attendees, and helping with meals/snacks/etc. Help is also needed directing attendees during the conference and taking everything down. Even if you cannot commit to the whole day, we would love to have you to whatever extent you feel comfortable.

Registration link:

Please contact DANA M. CEA at for more information on attending, volunteering, sponsoring and/or becoming a vendor.

Seminar on the evaluation of the GLS Program [Updated with slides!]

Thanks to everyone who came to our seminar with Duke University School of Medicine’s Dr. David B. Goldston on Wednesday, February 17th, on the evaluation of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Program. Dr. Goldston’s slides are available here!

About The GLS Program

Youth suicide prevention is a national health priority. Since 2005, the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial Suicide Prevention Program has funded competitive grants for suicide prevention activities that are awarded to states, tribal communities, and college campuses throughout the United States. Suicide prevention activities funded by the GLS program generally have been comprehensive in nature and multifaceted. Until recently, there has been little documentation of the effectiveness of this nationally implemented suicide prevention program. However, as part of a cross-site evaluation, counties in which GLS programs were implemented were recently found to have reduced suicide mortality and reduced population base rates of suicide attempts among young people relative to rates in comparison counties. These reductions were found in the year following implementation of the programs, but not thereafter, suggesting a need for continued suicide prevention efforts for sustainability of positive effects. Recent analyses also have indicated that cost savings associated with the GLS program (due to reduced hospitalizations and ED visits for suicide attempts) may more than offset the costs associated with implementation of the suicide prevention program.

Our Speaker

Dr. Goldston is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Goldston has participated in the cross-site evaluation of the nationally implemented Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention program, conducted longitudinal research regarding risk and developmental trajectories of suicidal behaviors among youths through young adulthood, developed interventions for substance using and suicidal teens, and written a book, published by the American Psychological Association Press, regarding the assessment of suicidal behaviors and risk among children and adolescents.  He currently is collaborating in evaluation of a cognitive behavioral intervention to reduce suicidal behavior among military personnel, and is conducting research regarding mechanisms of risk associated with suicidal behaviors. Dr. Goldston has his own clinical practice and supervises clinical trainees, particularly in interventions with suicidal youths, in the Psychosocial Treatment Clinic at the Duke Child and Family Study Center.

UNC-Chapel Hill and West Point to partner together to study changing concussion culture

Johna Register-MihalikUNC-Chapel Hill researchers have received a $400,000 award to partner with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to study changing the culture of concussion disclosure among military personnel and college athletes. They will develop an online interactive platform that provides a series of immersive training vignettes for those populations.

Eight winners of the inaugural Mind Matters Challenge, sponsored by the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), were announced Feb. 5. The two entities joined forces more than a year ago with a goal of securing funding for compelling research that encourages a culture in which every head injury is reported and managed properly, rather than being concealed from peers, coaches, medical personnel, unit leaders or others.

Johna Register-Mihalik, assistant professor of exercise and sport science in the College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty member of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, is a co-principal investigator on the project. Stephen Marshall, professor in the department of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the Injury Prevention Research Center, is the other UNC co-PI.

See more here.

Upcoming seminar on military sexual assault prevention

Join us for this month’s installment in the Gender-based Violence Research Group Speaker Series. Our speaker will be Dr. Olivia Silber Ashley, Director of RTI, International’s Risk Behavior and Family Research Program.

Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Time: 12:30-1:30PM

Location: Rosenau Hall, Room 101

GBV_February Meeting Notice_1.25.2016

SKIPP Project begins capacity-building trainings in Wake County

SKIPP logoOn October 20, 2015, the Skills and Knowledge for Injury Prevention Partners (SKIPP) Project hosted its first day-long workshop for Series 1 of a CORE capacity-building training program for injury and violence prevention practitioners serving children and youth in Wake County. 

The Day 1 workshop, entitled Public Health Approach, included sessions that addressed: 1) the burden of childhood injuries and violence; 2) prevention levels (primary, secondary and tertiary); 3) the Socio-Ecological Model; 4) risk and protective factors; and 5) a review of milestones in the evolution of the injury and violence prevention field.  Twenty-seven participants from 19 different organizations are participating in the first SKIPP CORE series.  Days 2-5 of the series will be held on December 8, 2015 and January 27, March 9, and April 20, 2016.  A second SKIPP CORE series will be offered in 2017.

Other SKIPP Project activities in 2016 will include an annual Networking Event for childhood injury and violence prevention stakeholders (May/June), as well as the launch of a SKIPP ENHANCED workshop series intended for injury and violence prevention practitioner teams to apply advanced injury and violence prevention concepts and skills to real-world projects (Summer). 

To learn more about the project, conducted with funding from the John Rex Endowment by a team from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Department of Health Behavior (Dr. Carolyn Crump, Robert J. Letourneau, Jim Emery, and Diana Urlaub), please visit the SKIPP Project website.  

Shaken baby prevention effort reduces crying-related calls to nurse advice line

Adam Zolotor, Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Adam Zolotor, Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A new evaluation of a statewide shaken baby prevention effort found that the number of calls to a nurse advice line from North Carolina parents who called because of a crying baby were reduced in the first 2 years after the intervention was implemented in 2007.

However, the study, published Oct. 26, 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics, did not find a statistically significant reduction in the number of abusive head trauma (AHT) or “shaken baby” cases in North Carolina during the same period.

“We found this project was a successful implementation of a multi-stage prevention program that reached 88 percent of North Carolina mothers over three and a half years,” said Adam Zolotor, MD, DrPH, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Family Medicine in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

“In addition, we found that two years after implementation, the number of calls from parents of crying children to the nurse advice line declined by 20 percent for children younger than 3 months and by 12 percent for children ages 3 months to 12 months,” Zolotor said.

The study found no association between the intervention and state-level rates of abusive head trauma. “This does not mean that the intervention does not work,” Zolotor said. “It simply means that our study did not demonstrate that it did work, and additional studies are needed to answer that question definitively.”

“There are many reasons that we may not have shown a decrease in rates of abusive head trauma, including the recession, the fact that this is a rare problem, and other factors that we did not observe,” Zolotor said. “However, the application of an economic modeling technique allowed us to attempt to control for some of these weaknesses. Future research may consider more intensive interventions or interventions targeted to high-risk families.”

Desmond Runyan, MD, DrPH, director of the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of child Abuse and Neglect at the University of Colorado, said, “The intervention took place during the most significant economic recession since the great depression. Four previous studies have shown the recession to be associated with increased rates of abusive head trauma. In North Carolina, we may not have shown a decrease, but there was no increase in rates of abusive head trauma.” Dr. Runyan was chair of Social Medicine and professor of Pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine when the study began and is a co-author of the article in JAMA Pediatrics.

Parents of babies in the study were provided with an intervention program called the “Period of PURPLE Crying,” which was developed by Dr. Ronald Barr, a professor of community child health research and a developmental pediatrician at the University of British Columbia, and Marilyn Barr, founder and executive director of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Both Dr. Barr and Marilyn Barr collaborated with the North Carolina project.

The program includes hospital and health care provider-based parent education. The program educates parents and caregivers about the hazards of shaking and gives them alternatives to use when they feel they need a respite from a crying baby, such as handing off the baby to another caregiver.

In addition to Zolotor and Runyan, Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, PhD, of the UNC School of Media and Journalism and Elizabeth Mitchell, PhDof the University of Queensland (formerly at UNC) worked with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome to develop a statewide media campaign to address social norms about shaking and reinforce program messages through caregivers, family, and friends. The Center for Child and Family Health – a collaborative effort involving Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina Central University and the UNC School of Medicine led the implementation of the project. Dr. Robert Murphy, the center’s executive director and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Duke and Dr. Kelly Sullivan, the center’s director of mental health services and Period of PURPLE Crying program manager, led a statewide leadership team that fostered the effort in the 86 hospitals where children are born, as well as in community settings across the state.

Funding for the project came from three sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided a five-year, $2.9 million grant and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided a $2 million grant, both to the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. A third grant of $2 million from The Duke Endowment went to the Center for Child and Family Health, with Dr. Murphy as principal investigator, to fund implementation. It was led by a broad coalition of stakeholders from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, University of British Columbia and state and county agencies, service providers and non-profit organizations.

Media contact:  Donna Parker, 919-260-7854,

[Republished from the UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom.]