Welfare Queens or Courageous Survivors? Strengths of Women in Poverty


Program Description:

The number of people living in poverty in the United States is staggering and yet to most of us those people are just statistics. A growing body of social science research clearly documents the negative consequences for the physical and mental health of people struggling to meet their basic needs (e.g. Recker Rayburn, 2007). Absent critical analysis of the historical and social factors that contribute to poverty, negative stereotypes and victim blaming arguments flourish – further perpetuating the problem (e.g. Bullock & Lott, 2001). Banyard confronts and discourages this trend by shedding light on one of the largest categories of those struggling with poverty – women. She draws on social science research which focuses on what these women say about their lives. Their voices are particularly clear about the tremendous strengths many women bring to their struggle to overcome the stress of living in poverty – their attempts to find another route toward opportunity for themselves, and frequently their children as well. Such strengths, all too often hidden behind media stereotypes, offer valuable lessons for all of us and a fundamental base of knowledge for policies and programs that aim to support the movement of these women beyond survival to thriving. This program was developed as a part of the University Dialog Program.


Victoria Banyard

Victoria Banyard is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire with affiliations in Justice Studies and Prevention Innovations. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan with a certificate in Women's Studies. She completed an NIMH research postdoctoral fellowship with the Family Research Laboratory here at UNH and postdoctoral clinical training at the Trauma Center in Boston. She teaches courses in community psychology, interpersonal violence, and service learning courses such as internship. Her research has focused on understanding the strengths and challenges of women facing stresses such as poverty and family violence. She has documented the negative mental health effects of such circumstances as well as the resilience that trauma survivors and others experiencing overwhelming stressors evidence. She has been the principal investigator on several grants to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative campus sexual assault prevention tools. She speaks regularly on the problems of sexual and relationship abuse for communities and prevention strategies to address them. She also has a new book out titled, "Toward the Next Generation of Bystander Prevention of Sexual and Relationship Violence".

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