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Social work professor receives national recognition for work on intimate partner violence, mentoring

January 5, 2015

Social work professor receives national recognition for work on intimate partner violence, mentoring

A Wayne State expert on intimate partner violence will be recognized for her contributions to research and mentoring at a national gathering of social work scholars in New Orleans this month.

Arlene Weisz, professor in the School of Social Work and previous director of the school’s doctoral program, has been invited by the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) to participate in a Jan. 15 “Meet the Scientist” luncheon during the society’s 2015 annual conference. SSWR selected Weisz for her “outstanding contributions to social work research and…ability to provide informal guidance to early career scholars and doctoral students.”

A 20-year member of the university’s social work faculty, Weisz’ research on adult intimate partner violence has focused primarily on legal interventions and risk assessment. She has also published extensively on teen dating violence and sexual assault prevention programming and has co-authored a book gathering advice from practitioners working with these populations. During the upcoming SSWR luncheon, Weisz will be matched with early career scholars and doctoral students who will receive advice from her on establishing themselves as scholars in this area of social work.

Weisz said the need for scholarship on intimate partner and teen dating violence is greater than ever, noting in particular the “huge and growing” national concern about sexual assault on college campuses. About one-quarter of adult women in a relationship have been assaulted or experienced physical, verbal or emotional abuse at the hands of their partner, she said, and data suggest a similar rate among teens. Among youth, she said, girls report perpetrating violence within relationships with the same frequency as boys; however female victims tend to be more frightened and intimated by the experience.

Weisz said the focus of research is increasingly on the role of third parties in identifying and responding to abuse.

“Research is going in the direction of bystander interventions and ways that people who see or learn about this type of violence can feel empowered to speak up. This includes the need to change social norms that consider this type of violence acceptable,” Weisz said, adding that teens in particular need help addressing abusive situations. “Research shows that teens who do speak out about abuse they experience will normally tell friends who are rarely equipped to intervene, so we need to encourage young people to reach out to adults and help adults respond effectively in turn.”

Among other things, SSWR has invited Weisz to tell young scholars about the rewards and challenges of conducting research in an urban community.

“The Wayne State School of Social Work has a group of researchers looking at intimate partner violence, in part because Detroit has a significant problem with domestic violence that is confounded by limited resources to help victims,” Weisz said. Weisz noted that the school also has a long history of evaluating domestic violence programs and services utilized by the Detroit Police Department. “We do our research out in the community, collaborating with organizations that serve this vulnerable population. This is the best way to develop interventions that are effective and appropriate to the unique needs of our neighbors.”

A dissertation advisor to social work doctoral students, Weisz said the School of Social Work is helping to produce the next generation of scholars committed to understanding and reducing multiple types of violence. Recent Ph.D. recipients have looked at bullying and pregnancy among trauma survivors, she noted, adding that graduate Mickey Sperlich (Ph.D., ’14) will be honored by SWRR in January with an honorable mention 2015 Outstanding Social Work Doctoral Dissertation Award for her dissertation entitled, “Trauma Exposure, Posttraumatic Stress, and Depression in a Community Sample of First-Time Mothers.”

Learn more about Dr. Weisz and her research at http://socialwork.wayne.edu/faculty/bio.php?id=168. More about the School of Social Work’s doctoral program can be found at https://socialwork.wayne.edu/phd/index.php

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