URI College of Nursing study aims to increase intimate, sexual violence screening on college campuses

Kathy Hutchinson’s funded study aims to identify barriers to violence screening

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Kathy Hutchinson
Kathy Hutchinson

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 4, 2020 — Intimate partner violence and sexual violence are significant public health issues for women, with more than 20 percent of women sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 1.3 to 5 million women experiencing intimate partner violence each year. Female college students experience some of the highest rates of partner violence and sexual violence of all groups, prompting a new study by URI College of Nursing Associate Dean Kathy Hutchinson.

Her study, “Multi-level Influences of Violence Screening in College Health Centers,” is funded by a four-year, $1.2 million RO1 grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It is the third RO1 grant currently funding studies in the College. Dr. Christopher Nasin, medical director of URI Health Services, is a co-investigator on the study. Other research team members are Melissa Sutherland (co-principal investigator) and Bing Si from Binghamton University, and Nancy Van Devanter from New York University.

It is recommended that all health care providers routinely screen women for intimate partner and sexual violence. Because college women are at high risk, screening in college health care settings is a critical way to mitigate risk for ongoing violence. One of Hutchinson’s recent studies found that only 10 – 11 percent of college health care providers report screening female student patients for violence.

“Intimate partner violence and sexual violence have immediate health effects such as injuries, death, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, and psychological distress; and long-term health effects like chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety, neurologic disorders, migraines, depression, and PTSD,” Hutchinson said. “Given that college women are at high risk for intimate partner violence and sexual violence, screening in college health care settings is a vitally important and low-cost strategy to mitigate risk for ongoing violence.”

Hutchinson’s study aims to identify the barriers to violence screening and increase the reporting of partner and sexual violence among college communities. The study will include surveys with a national sample of 1,900 college health care providers from more than 300 colleges and in-depth interviews with a subsample of participants. Online focus groups and brief surveys will also be conducted with female college students to identify potential student reactions to violence screening.

The study’s findings will inform the development of recommendations and multi-level interventions to promote intimate partner and sexual violence screening in college health centers.

URI College of Nursing researchers now have three studies funded by RO1 grants. In addition to Hutchinson’s study, Professor Mary Sullivan’s funded study examines the developmental outcomes of premature infants across their lifespans; and Research Professor Kimberly Arcoleo’s study evaluates a “School-Based Asthma Therapy” program to reduce disparities in care for childhood asthma.

The RO1 grant, or Research Project grant, is awarded by the National Institutes of Health to support research projects that relate to the specific mission of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. RO1 grants are among the most prestigious and competitive research grants available, with the NIH only funding about 10 percent of applications.