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Survey on Sexual Assault in State Presented at Conference

June 20, 2007

Three UNH professors presented the findings of a 2006 statewide survey on sexual assault in New Hampshire at the 13th Statewide Conference on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Stalking on June 7.

Sharyn J. Potter, associate professor of sociology, David J. Laflamme, research assistant professor, department of health management and policy and the Maternal and Child Health epidemiologist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and Mary M. Moynihan, research associate professor in the women’s studies program, led the workshop “Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence in New Hampshire: Findings and Implications from a Survey of New Hampshire Women.”

The conference was sponsored by the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Attorney General’s Office and was attended by domestic and sexual violence and stalking crisis center directors and service providers, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, and police officers from around the state.

The report on which the presentation was based is the New Hampshire Violence Against Women Survey 2007 co-authored by Potter, Laflamme, Moynihan, Grace Mattern, Victoria L. Banyard, Jane G. Stapleton and Lisa Bujno.

The study draws attention to the problem of sexual violence in the Granite state. The random telephone survey is a first-of-its-kind for the state and is the result of collaboration by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV), the Department of Health and Human Services and faculty researchers at UNH. The project was primarily funded through a grant from the UNH Office of the Vice-President of Research and Outreach Scholarship, intended to promote collaboration both within the university (ie: between departments) and with external community partners.

The study represents an effort to apply recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Healthy People 2010” and “CDC Injury Research Agenda” highlighting the problem of sexual violence for the nation’s health. Little has been known about the problem in New Hampshire.

In addition, the new survey overcomes the criticism of a 2003 report estimating that, in their lifetime, one in seven women in New Hampshire had experienced the most severe form of sexual assault. That report was widely distributed and criticized because the researchers who conducted it estimated prevalence rates from national data and then applied them to the state rather than directly surveying New Hampshire women.

The current survey examined the prevalence of sexual and physical violence among women ages 18 and older and showed sexual violence in the state is higher than previously estimated with 23 percent of women surveyed reporting to have been sexually assaulted and 50 percent reporting being physically assaulted.

Additional results presented during the workshop included New Hampshire residents’ level of knowledge regarding the problem and the availability of services for female victims of sexual violence. Presenters proposed the crucial information learned from the study be applied to design more effective state prevention, intervention, and policy efforts to address the issue.

Workshop participants discussed the study’s practical and policy implications. Many agreed the report will be influential in informing services, policy and legislation. They noted the information will be useful for convincing policy makers about the extent of sexual assault in the state and the importance of having statistics collected from residents, and that the numbers will be helpful for fundraising purposes. Some participants said the survey provided an avenue to get invitations to speak in the local schools and police departments for those working at the grassroots level to prevent sexual and domestic violence.

cite for the study:

• Potter SJ, Laflamme D, Mattern G, Banyard VL, Moynihan MM, Stapleton JG, Bujno L. New Hampshire Violence Against Women Survey. 2007.

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