Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Sexual Violence Campus Survey Project


While sexual violence is a documented problem among college students and women of college age, less is known about sexual violence at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In order to prevent and respond to sexual violence, it is necessary to understand the scope and magnitude of the problem but little of this research has been conducted with HBCUs.  Campus climate surveys provide an important step in understanding the occurrence of campus sexual assault (CSA), and The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has produced a validated tool. However, there is a need to modify the tool to be relevant to HBCUs. The HBCU Campus Climate Project will gather essential information about the campus climate at historical black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in relationship to interpersonal violence by piloting a survey instrument. The primary method of information gathering will be an online survey of a random sample of undergraduate at three HBCUs. Before the survey is administered, the instrument will be tested through on-line crowdsourced surveys and cognitive interviews.

Associated faculty


Sarah McMahon, VAWC, Rutgers University, Principal Investigator

Sarah McMahon, is an Associate Professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work and also serves as the Associate Director for the School’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children. Her research focuses on violence against women and children, with an emphasis on prevention and social change.  Dr. McMahon has extensive experience in designing and implementing studies with college students to measure their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to sexual violence, with a focus on bystander intervention. In 2014, she was invited to collaborate with the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault through the testing of a campus climate survey tool.  She was also appointed by the Governor of NJ to serve on the state’s Task Force to Address Campus Sexual Violence and also serves on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center Advisory Board.  She has numerous publications on the topic of sexual violence and has presented her work around the country. Dr. McMahon also serves as the Chair of the NJ Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board.  Prior to her position at the School of Social Work, Dr. McMahon worked in a clinical setting, providing crisis intervention and counseling to survivors of various forms of interpersonal violence and delivering prevention education to the wider community.

Antoinette Farmer
Bethany Backes
Rita Seabrook
Christopher Allen

Leila Wood, PhD, LMSW, Co-Principal Investigator

Leila Wood is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Dr. Wood has three degrees (BSW, MSSW and PhD) in Social Work. Her scholarship areas are intimate and interpersonal violence in the campus context, intimate partner violence and sexual assault service evaluation, and occupational stress related to interpersonal violence work. Wood’s research focuses on survivor-centered approaches and establishing evidence for community and campus-based practices in the intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault (SA) field, including housing programs. 

Antoinette Farmer, Rutgers University

Antoinette Y. Farmer, Ph.D. is professor and associate dean for academic affairs at Rutgers University's School of Social Work. Her research focuses on examining the social and interpersonal factors that affect parenting as well as how parenting practices influence adolescent high risk behaviors, such as delinquency and substance use. This research agenda has been greatly influenced by the work of Jay Belsky, and she has also modified his ecological model as reflected in her research examining the buffering effect of social support on the relationship between parenting stress and parenting behavior. Her work in the area of parenting has led her to develop and test models to determine what variables may mediate the relationship between parenting and adolescent outcomes. She is also beginning to examine the effects of fathers' parenting practices on adolescents high risk behaviors. Her work has also examined the effects of religion/spirituality on adolescent high risk behaviors. In order to carry out her research agenda, she conducts quantitative data analysis using large national data sets. Her research has been published in Social Work, Journal of Social Service Research, and Children and Youth Services Review. She co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Social Service Research, which was devoted to informing researchers of the methodological issues confronting them when conducting research with minority and oppressed populations. She has also written several chapters on this issue as well, with the most recent appearing in the Handbook of Social Work Research Methods (2nd Edition). She has served as a consulting editor for Social Work in Education and on the editorial board for Children in Schools. Dr. Farmer has also presented at numerous national and international conferences.

Bethany L.  Backes, The University of Texas

Bethany L. Backes, PhD, is a research associate at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the director of research and evaluation at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA). Backes comes from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)/U.S. Department of Justice, where she spent a decade directing research and evaluation on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, stalking, violent victimization, researcher-practitioner partnerships, and wrongful conviction. Her oversight of NIJ’s Violence Against Women Program of Research led to the development of major initiatives and rigorous study on sexual assault forensics and case attrition, domestic violence homicide, and criminal justice and community-based responses to violence against women. She developed and instituted a researcher-practitioner program to support junior and senior researchers in establishing on-the-ground collaborations to tackle prominent criminal justice issues at the local level. Prior to NIJ, Backes spent several years in the direct services, research, and health education fields primarily focused on victimization and injury.

Her areas of scholarship broadly encompass research and evaluation on violence against women including formal and informal help-seeking trajectories, secondary and tertiary violence prevention strategies, and criminal justice and community-based interventions related to intimate partner, sexual, and stalking victimization. Her overarching goal is to develop and adapt measures, methods, and interventions to enhance victim engagement and autonomy at the systems level (health, community-based, and criminal justice).

Rita Seabrook - VAWC; Rutgers University

Dr. Seabrook's research focuses on intimate partner violence. She is especially interested in masculinity and how the pressure to “be a man” (e.g., by having several sexual partners) contributes to sexual violence against women. Currently, she is working on projects related to fraternity membership and sexual violence perpetration, sexual violence among LGBTQ college students, and opioid misuse and intimate partner violence. 

Christopher T. Allen – Kennesaw State University

Christopher Allen’s research primarily focuses on the study of gender-based violence and its prevention. His interdisciplinary conceptualization of prevention was developed while completing a Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina. He has since worked on a range of violence prevention projects and research at the college, community, and federal levels; developing complementary research interests in the following areas: program evaluation, psychometrics, and the psychology of men and masculinities. Dr. Allen is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Science at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.