Drs. Smith-Darden & McCauley Receive Federal Funding to Evaluate Rape Prevention Education Programs in Michigan & Georgia

Dr. Joanne Smith-Darden and Dr. Heather McCauley
Dr. Joanne Smith-Darden and Dr. Heather McCauley
Dr. Joanne Smith-Darden & Dr. Heather McCauley of the Michigan State University School of Social Work and their teams have been awarded two grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate Rape Prevention Education (RPE) programs in Michigan and Georgia. Together, these awards total $2.25 million over the next three years with the potential for an additional $2.25 million to be awarded in years 4 and 5.

The goal of this CDC funding opportunity is to “rigorously evaluate practice-based prevention approaches to increase the evidence for sexual violence [prevention strategies] that are feasible to implement by practitioners and acceptable to communities.” Drs. Smith-Darden & McCauley worked closely with their state RPE partners and research collaborators nationally to focus their efforts on programs that address the outer level of the social ecology.

Dr. Smith-Darden is Principal Investigator and Dr. McCauley is Co-Investigator of the study “Creating Protective Environments Through School Policy Development,” that is a collaboration with Dr. Poco Kernsmith (Co-Principal Investigator; Wayne State University School of Social Work), Dr. Dennis Reidy (Georgia State University), and Taryn Gal (Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health; MOASH). The project involves an evaluation of Michigan Youth (MY) Consent Culture, that is a MOASH program designed to support policy, professional development, and sexual violence prevention programming within K-12 schools. The team will conduct a statewide policy evaluation and assess the implementation of policy to prevent sexual violence in six Michigan school districts.

Drs. Smith-Darden and McCauley are also Co-Investigators of the study “Evaluation of the “Step Up Step In’’ Sexual Bullying Prevention Program,” that is a collaboration with Dr. Dennis Reidy (Principal Investigator; GSU), Dr. Lindsay Orchowski (Rhode Island Hospital & Brown University), Dr. Jennifer McMahon-Howard & Dr. Heidi Scherer (Kennesaw State University) and the Gwinnett County Health Department. This project is an evaluation of the Georgia-based RPE-funded social marketing campaign to promote community-level norms that protect against sexual bullying. The team will focus on assessing the campaign’s impact on sexual violence among high-school students, with Drs. Smith-Darden and McCauley focusing on the impact of the program among sexual and gender minority youth specifically.

Together, Drs. Smith-Darden & McCauley direct the SPARK Research for Social Change lab in the MSU School of Social Work, that is an interdisciplinary, community-engaged research lab focused on the prevention of violence, in all its forms. “SPARKS are flying,” said Dr. Smith-Darden. “With support from the CDC, we are thrilled to bring together interdisciplinary researchers across the country and community partners to expand the evidence base for sexual violence prevention.” Dr. McCauley added, “with these projects, we strive to inform true community and societal-level change.” These studies will be supported by doctoral student, Jamie Kynn, and BASW and MSW students interns and research assistants in the School of Social Work and doctoral student Taylor Reid in Human Development & Family Studies.