Researchers from UCF’s Violence Against Women Cluster have partnered with UCF Student Health Services and UCF Victim Services to develop and implement a screening tool that can help identify intimate partner violence (IPV) among college students.

The work can help health care workers implement strategies for prevention and response.

Recent research indicates that a significant number of college students, particularly those from ethnic, racial, sexual, and gender minority backgrounds, student athletes, and students with disabilities, are at a heightened risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. It is estimated that up to 50% of college students may experience one or more types of dating, sexual or stalking violence.

Furthermore, screenings for IPV are uncommon and not standardized across university settings, while those used and practiced in general healthcare settings often do not meet the needs of college students, says Bethany Backes, an assistant professor in the Violence Against Women Faculty cluster initiative.

That’s why she’s helping lead a new study, “Care on Campus (CoC): Screening for Intimate Partner Violence within Student Healthcare Settings” to improve UCF’s ability to identify and support college students who are experiencing violence in their relationships. The project received initial funding by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation.

“A lot of college campuses don’t use screenings and if they do, they are not relevant to college students,” Backes says. “However, it is recommended that screening happens for people 14 and older, and college is a great place to screen because you have a population, a young adult population, and that typically is when the onset of certain types or forms of interpersonal violence first occur.”

The project is currently in a pilot stage in which students who have appointments at the Student Health Services can opt to fill out the screener.

“Our collective goal is that we create something usable that can be implemented beyond Student Health Services settings, such as being used, for example, by college athletic trainers or in college counseling centers,” Backes says.

The data gathered will help researchers and Student Health Services improve efforts to assist students who are experiencing abuse in their relationships and educate them on resources, Backes says.

Students who are willing to participate in the project will remain anonymous and will not have anything linked to their medical files.

The project encourages students, whether or not they decide to participate, to reach out and talk about their relationships if they have any doubts or concerns.

“I think it’s really important for students to get resources, or to learn about resources because sometimes it’s just knowledge transfer.” Backes says. “So, they might not seek out victim services right away, or they might not seek them out the next time, but they start to be aware that there are services like this on campus.”