To date, my work has focused on three interrelated areas: 1) LGBTQ+ health disparities; 2) experiences of violence and trauma, particularly dating, sexual and intimate partner violence; and 3) health care access and promotion.
These are areas of interest to me because both smaller qualitative studies and larger nationally-representative surveys indicate that LGBTQ+ men, women, and non-binary folx experience significantly higher rates of violence, significantly higher rates of post-traumatic mental and physical health issues, and have significantly lower rates of post-traumatic health care utilization. When examined intersectionally--e.g. to include age, race ethnicity, socioeconomic status, indigeneity, disability status, immigration status, and so on--the outcomes only intensify and worsen; that is to say, younger sexual minority women, women of color, poorer women, indigenous women, disabled women, and transgender women (including non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals) are at the highest risk for negative post-victimization health outcomes and find it even more difficult to access affordable, competent, and non-threatening care.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation "New Connections" Scholarship
As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholar, I use data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)—a nationally representative, probability dataset on intimate partner violence in the U.S.—to extend previous research on intimate partner violence and access to quality healthcare in two key ways: 1) by quantitatively assessing disparities in healthcare utilization post-IPV for bisexual and non-monosexual women, discerning specific barriers to and correlates of utilization (including, but not limited to age, race ethnicity, disability, and indigeneity); and 2) by evaluating the role of community service providers in offering alternative options to the traditional medical model. Taken together, the findings highlight the complex and culturally specific medical, social, behavioral, and financial needs of sexual minority women survivors of violence and the promise of multi-modal healthcare integration. Indeed, while sexual orientation and sexual behavior are barriers to accessing traditional health care, multiplicative marginalization only further isolates sexual minority women from post-traumatic health and wellness resources. However, organizations that specialize in LGBTQ+ issues, including LGBTQ+ intimate partner and dating violence, are often sites where sexual minority women reach out for help. In this way, the key to increasing quality access to care and positive experiences during care for sexual minority survivors of violence is to more deeply understand the personal, interpersonal, and structural barriers they encounter along the way.
Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) and Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Through continued work with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)—first in New York City and now in Richmond, VA with Virginia Anti-Violence Project—I directly work with community members and an LGBTQ+ anti-violence organization to assess post-traumatic needs. Using community-based participatory research methods, I partnered with LGBTQ+ identified Southerners who have experienced dating, intimate partner, and sexual violence to plan and execute three community conversations and corresponding post-conversation wellness activities (such as yoga, trauma-informed massage, and salsa dancing lessons). In these conversations, nearly all survivors reported that the level of awareness regarding violence in their communities was limited and rarely discussed among/between friends; that there was specific difficulty in identifying abusive behavior, as many of them had experienced other forms of violence from family and/or since a young age; and that they largely did not attempt to or did not successfully access mainstream services, due to concerns about homophobia, transphobia, and racism. To address violence in LGBTQ+ communities, survivors pointed to the importance of friendship and community networks “outside the system,” and resource sharing about non-heteronormative violence tactics. Findings highlight the need to move beyond “culturally competent” health care by proactively engaging LGBTQ+ communities in education, networking, resource sharing, and anti-violence outreach and draws attention to the need for post-traumatic wellness practices, which are associated with decreased stress and increased wellness.
I will be continuing this work with college students in Spring 2018, with an interdisciplinary team of researchers (School of Education; Medical Campus of Virginia; Wilder School of Public Affairs) as we conduct focus groups with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC+) survivors of adverse life events, gauging their reactions to newly edited and updated anti-violence social media images (as part of a formal evaluation of the Virginia Domestic Violence Action Alliance’s “Red Flag Campaign” (RFC)). To achieve our goal, we will: 1) assess what TGNC+ college students view as the key components of healthy relationship promotion and sexual violence prevention programs and the extent to which the current RFC materials reflect these components; and 2) explore the barriers and facilitators to implementing prevention programming tailored to TGNC+ students on college campuses, from the perspective of those students.
College Behavioral and Emotional Health (COBE) Institute and "Spit for Science"
I actively contribute to increased quality data collection and survey methodologies with the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute (COBE) as a faculty partner on Spit for Science. Namely, I added two six-part, comprehensive and critical questions that measure sexual orientation and gender identity—both of which had been ignored in all five previous data collection years (with the exception of a question asking students if they were "heterosexual," "homosexual" or "bisexual", with no other options and no opt out).
Originally developed through the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, a world-renowned research institute focusing on genetic and environmental risk factors for psychiatric and substance use disorders, COBE brings together researchers from across the university who study behavioral and emotional health, and has the goal of promoting behavioral and emotional health through the integration of research with policy, programming, and practice. It is through partnership with COBE and their Contemplative Science core, that I am developing my future research project in complementary and integrative health practices for post-victimization resilience; practices that mitigate the impact of minority stress for marginalized LGBTQ+ survivors, such as through meditation, wellness, life planning, narrative projection, and divination techniques.