Study to investigate victimization in Latino community

November 09, 2009

A Penn State Harrisburg faculty member has been awarded a $680,000 federal grant to help eliminate a research gap profiling victimization in the Latino community.

Chiara Sabina, assistant professor of social science, received the two-year grant from the National Institute of Justice to focus on the national level of dating violence and victimization among Latino adolescents which she a terms a “much more understudied” group than others in that community.

Sabina is partnering in her research with Carlos Cuevas, assistant professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University.

“The main idea is to investigate the level of dating violence in relationships along with victimization from peers, siblings, and maltreatment from parents," Sabina said. "This will offer a more comprehensive view of victimization.”

Involving interviews with 750 male and 750 female adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 residing in high-density Latino communities throughout the U.S., the research will also attempt to quantify the “level of victim help-seeking,” Sabina said. “Is it mainly with law enforcement, the medical community, school counselors, families? What determines this?"

Participants will be asked about dating violence and other forms of victimization, formal and informal help-seeking efforts, psychological distress, delinquency, social support, and demographics.

Viewing the study as a way to reveal how often victimization takes place, how victims respond to it, and its impact, is the overall aim of the research with an eye on assessing current psychosocial and behavioral outcomes.

“The findings are also pertinent to shaping practice and policy, specifically school-based interventions, criminal justice institutions, and victim advocacy,” Sabina said.

Looking to the future, there is a lifespan ingredient in the study.

“Childhood victimization many times leads to adult problems and if we can figure out what happens in adolescence, we may be able to identify effective interventions before the problem grows into adulthood," Sabina said. "First we must find out the level of victimization now and what social supports are in place to buffer the impacts.”

The newly funded research builds on Sabina’s previous work, also supported by the National Institute of Justice, which profiled the level of female victimization in the Latino community.

Sabina said she hopes the study will lead to a better, more culturally based understanding of dating violence and victimization among Latino youth.

“I want my work to have real value to real people," she said.

Last Updated November 09, 2009