Holland’s research aims for a survivor-focused approach to reporting sexual violence | Nebraska today

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher is using a National Science Foundation grant to study how two higher education institutions are implementing federal guidelines that address sexual violence on campus.

Researcher Hucker Kathryn Holland uses a $500,000 grant from the NSF Faculty Career Development Program to explore how a particular facet of these guidelines – the mandatory reporting policies – is applied on two major campuses in the United States. It explores the dynamic interplay between how institutions interpret federal mandatory reporting guidelines; how they educate faculty, staff, and students about these policies; and how individuals’ personal experiences and attitudes affect their reporting behavior.

The ultimate goal, Holland said, is to generate data that supports the development of trauma-informed policies that help survivors access resources that enhance long-term healing. The study is the first-ever multi-level exploration of mandatory reporting rules.

“I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of the kind of empirical evidence we need to understand these policies, how they’re implemented, and their outcomes,” said Holland, assistant professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies. “A big part of what I aim to do with my work on sexual violence is to think about how we can improve policy and develop empirically informed policy. This is an area that is really lacking.”

Mandatory reporting policies derive from the title IX Education Amendments of 1972, which protects individuals participating in federally funded education programs or activities from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. In guidance documents – which help institutions comply with the title IX – the we The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights requires institutions to designate mandatory reporters: individuals who, upon learning of sexual misconduct, are required to report the information to designated academic officials.

In response to these guidelines, most institutions designate nearly all employees as mandatory filers. On the face of it, this approach seems logical: the more mandatory filers there are, the more likely it is that reports of sexual assault will surface, which would benefit survivors.

But that’s a mistaken assumption, Holland said. The literature shows that when the autonomy and control of survivors is reduced – as is the case in mandatory reporting systems, when names and experiences are sometimes shared with university officials against the survivors’ wishes – this results in an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Holland’s experiences with survivors echo this pattern. Prior to launching her research career, she was an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. In this role, Holland regularly saw survivors who were reluctant to report assaults through official channels. When she was a teacher at the graduate school, students regularly revealed sexual violence to her in articles and class discussions. This first-hand experience with the obscurity of mandatory reporting policies motivated Holland to continue this research trajectory and seek an empirical survivor-focused approach.

“In my experience and in my research, what I’ve seen is that the scope of who is required to report has been too broad,” she said. “We still have a lot to understand about the most beneficial scope for everyone involved, as well as the kind of training and resources that need to be in place for a mandatory reporting policy to work as we hope. . ”

For the CAREER project, Holland uses a qualitative approach to analyze how Title IX direction is translated into policies and concrete results on two campuses. To collect data at the institutional level, she will analyze the text of academic policies and websites. For individual-level data, she will interview approximately 60 faculty and staff and 60 students, including mandatory reporters and survivors, at each institution. Some of her questions will focus on other interpretations of mandatory reporting policies that could empower survivors.

Holland will then integrate data at the institutional and individual level, illuminating how federal guidelines morph as they are interpreted first by institutional officials, then by mandated journalists and survivors as they try to comply. It aims for research to serve as a model for blending two levels of data to assess the effectiveness of institutional sexual assault policies.

For the educational component of the project, Holland will develop and teach a rigorous graduate seminar in the Department of Psychology focusing on qualitative methods and analysis. Previously, students had to seek such training outside the department. Holland said the course will help debunk some of the most persistent myths about qualitative research.

“In psychology, there’s often this kind of idea that qualitative research is really easy and not rigorous,” Holland said. “But there are a lot of things that go into planning, executing and analyzing qualitative data. It is not easy. I am delighted to offer an area of ​​methodological training that our department has not had before.

She also hopes to build on her track record of using qualitative research to influence institutional policy. She currently serves on the Collaborative Action on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which focuses on developing evidence-based policies to prevent sexual harassment on campus and address against sexual harassment when it occurs. She also served as an expert witness for survivors in Title IX dispute. She hopes her latest findings will have a similar impact in the real world.

“I would really like this work to be useful to people like policy makers and advocates,” she said. “It’s a part of the project that really excites me.”

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