A multi-disciplinary collaboration co-led by Dr. Beth Moracco and Professor Deborah M. Weissman recently received a funding award from the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM)’s inaugural NC Evaluation Fund Grants program to support measurement, development, and evaluation planning for Project RESTART.

Dr. Beth Moracco

Dr. Moracco is the associate director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Professor Weissman is the Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law and is the chair of the North Carolina State Domestic Violence Commission. Other RESTART team members include doctoral students Julia Campbell, MPH (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC IPRC), Sydney Nicolla, MA (Hussman School of Journalism and Media), Mallory Verez (UNC Law School), Savannah Morgan (former UNC Law student, now with Legal Aid NC), and masters students Julia Weinrich and Bridget Nelson (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health), and Scarlett Hawkins (Global Studies).

Deborah M. Weissman

The North Carolina Evaluation Fund was established in 2021 to support research partnerships with state agencies that inform policy and program decisions. Proposed projects must be state agency-driven, action-oriented, and represent a partnership between the state agency and researchers. Moracco and Weissman partnered with the NC Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement, the state agency that advises the governor, state legislatures and departments and administers funding to domestic violence and sexual assault programs in North Carolina.

In a recent press release, Danielle Carman, the Director of the Council for Women and Youth Involvement noted: “Ultimately, we hope that by thoroughly evaluating ways to incorporate restorative justice practices, trauma-informed programming and wrap-around services into Domestic Violence Intervention Programs, we will be able to clearly identify best practices that achieve better outcomes for families and communities affected by domestic violence.”

The ultimate goal of Project RESTART (Restorative, Effective Solutions Toward Accountability, Responsibility and Treatment) is to develop a theory-and evidence-informed domestic violence intervention (DVIP) model program that incorporates restorative justice, trauma-informed programming, wrap-around services, partnerships with social justice and economic opportunity organizations, and communication strategies to prioritize survivor-centered content. DVIPs, also known as Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs), are court mandated intervention programs originally designed to address male violence against their female partners. DVIPs are intended to be an alternative to incarceration and are designed to reduce recidivism related to domestic violence perpetration. “DVIPs have the potential to mitigate a type of violence experienced within the family, perhaps the most intimate of all social arrangements,” noted Professor Weissman. “The importance of DVIPs as entities to address domestic violence is presently the subject of national conversations.”

Project RESTART was initiated in response to the need for updated, comprehensive, and evidence-based approaches to DVIPs. Currently there is a lack of consensus on what constitutes “success” for DVIPs and on how to measure program effectiveness. With the NC Evaluation Fund funding, the Project RESTART team will develop assessment tools that will measure existing and innovative approaches to DVIPs, and ultimately lay the foundation for the development and evaluation of a model DVIP. “The NC Evaluation Fund has created an exciting opportunity for our team to partner of the Council for Women and Youth Involvement to contribute to the evidence base related to DVIPs.” Dr. Moracco remarked.  “The resulting assessment tools will help practitioners and policymakers make data-driven decisions about  programmatic priorities and resource allocation that can enhance domestic violence  prevention, offender accountability, and community healing.”