Nursing faculty provides intervention strategy for sexual violence on campus

September 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jocelyn Anderson, assistant professor in College of Nursing, has had a research study published in the Journal of American College Health on the implementation of a sexual violence intervention at campus student health clinics and counseling centers. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), was based on the perspectives of the providers at the clinics and counseling centers and their experience with implementing the sexual violence intervention. This unique and critical perspective is key in improving and developing GIFTSS, the sexual violence intervention that was used.

GIFTSS (Giving Information for Trauma Support and Safety) is a trauma-informed brief intervention developed by an interdisciplinary team of community-based practitioners, sexual assault victim advocates, and researchers. With approximately one in five students reporting an experience of sexual assault during college, this intervention gives college health and counseling services the ability to provide better support to students who have experienced sexual violence.

The research was conducted across 28 college health and counseling centers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, training and interviewing providers and staff from the health and counseling centers on either a sexual violence prevention intervention or a brief alcohol counseling intervention. All providers and staff in the intervention arm were then instructed to implement the GIFTSS intervention strategy, initiating the topic of sexual violence with the student patient, regardless of the nature of the visit, and providing them a card with more information and statistics on the health impacts of violence and the resources available to them.

Both before and after the implementation of the intervention, providers were surveyed to assess their knowledge and comfort level with talking about sexual violence and alcohol use with student patients. Researchers also interviewed some providers related to implementation of the sexual violence content into their practice and their experiences with the intervention.

Since providers were given either sexual violence or alcohol abuse intervention training, their responses varied with regard to implementation barriers, including comfort discussing sexual and partner violence, fear of patient disclosures, the nature of the patient visit, and lack of time during their work day.

Providers who received the trauma-informed sexual violence training reported increased levels of talking to students about sexual violence and relationship violence, and feeling more comfortable and confident talking to students about sexual health and alcohol-related topics including unwanted sexual experiences and unhealthy relationships, whereas the providers who received only alcohol-abuse training reported feeling uncomfortable bringing up the subject of sexual violence, specifically if it was a sexually unrelated visit.

Provider feedback and strategies to help strengthen the GIFTSS implementation outlined the need for more opportunity to practice through role playing, modeling, or development of additional scripts, allowing for increased comfortability using the GIFTSS card in all patient visits.

“I think research that looks at health care providers on campus around sexual assault is important because they do so much of the health care for students on campus,” said Anderson. “We know that students are experiencing sexual violence on campus and have experienced sexual violence even before coming to campus, so health centers are one of the very few places on campus that students can go that is confidential and (staff members) really have an important role to play in recognizing how special they are to students in that they can go without feeling like they may get tied up in systems that they don't want to be tied up in.”

The incorporation of this brief trauma-informed education, assessment, and referral intervention demonstrates the potential to address this major issue among college campuses. These campus health and counseling centers are well positioned to decrease sexual violence and increase help seeking behaviors for sexual violence through resources, time, training, and building relationships with sexual violence and partner violence advocacy organizations.

Read the full research article here.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and would like to talk about it, the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 has trained advocates available 24/7.


(Media Contacts)

Brooke Killmon

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Last Updated September 01, 2020