Research to Examine Effectiveness of Bystander Intervention for Violence Prevention in At-Risk Groups

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A new grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will allow UNC Charlotte social work professor Annelise Mennicke to investigate the effectiveness of a national violence prevention program while receiving valuable mentorship and professional development in the process.

Dr. Mennicke’s research will focus on the Green Dot bystander intervention program, one among several approaches to training people who witness problematic situations to safely intervene to help prevent violence. Green Dot is unique in its coordination of prevention activities across the socioecological model, involving not only individuals, but also emphasizing the role of social networks and community values. A recent study of 26 high schools in Kentucky found that Green Dot reduced perpetration of sexual violence by 50% in schools that received the treatment. 

What isn’t clear at this point is how effective the program is for certain important at-risk groups, and whether risky behaviors can reduce the effectiveness of Green Dot. Mennicke seeks to answer these questions by analyzing data from a five year randomized control trial, focusing on whether Green Dot is effective for high school youth who have been previously exposed to family violence and whether drinking and endorsement of rape myths affect how well Green Dot works.

“Many youth in the United States are exposed to family violence, either as victims of child abuse or witnessing domestic violence between adults, and these youth are at increased risk of later perpetration of or victimization by interpersonal violence,” Mennicke said. “There is a dire need to find effective methods of stopping this intergenerational cycle of violence, and this project represents one step in that process.” 

Ultimately, the study could be used to create tailored cross-cutting prevention programs that more effectively reduce violence exposure for high-risk youth.

Over the course of the K01 project, Mennicke will be mentored by Dr. Lyndie Forthofer, chair and professor at UNC Charlotte Public Health Sciences, as well as Dr. Ann Coker and Dr. Heather Bush from the University of Kentucky.  As part of her career development supported by the grant, she will take advanced academic courses and attend national conferences. The total mentored scientist development award supporting these activities and the research is expected to exceed $200,000.

Mennicke learned valuable skills in developing grant proposals while participating in Catalyst, a program offered by UNC Charlotte designed to help faculty members successfully apply for research grants, which she utilized when applying for this grant. Results from this study, which will be available in August 2021, will lead to the development of tailored bystander intervention programs for at-risk youth, which Dr. Mennicke will seek CDC and NIH funding to evaluate.