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UK researcher studies how bystanders can intervene in domestic violence

Heather Bush

/ by UK HealthCare

Both intimate partner and sexual violence remain significant public health problems, and both types of violence have short-term and long-term psychological and physical health impacts that need to be better understood, according to Heather Bush, professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the UK College of Public Health.

Since joining the faculty of the College of Public Health in 2006, Bush has worked with many researchers on projects that aim to understand health-related quality of life. "What happens to you, what you experience in life, impacts your health," she said. In other words, people who experience chronic stress or trauma are more likely to experience poor health.

All of this information has sparked Bush's interest in violence prevention.

Bystander intervention studies

Bush is currently the principal investigator on two studies on bystander intervention. She is also collaborating with Ann Coker, Verizon Wireless Endowed Chair in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Together they are evaluating the Green Dot program. The Green Dot program is a comprehensive approach to the prevention of violence that capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influences. It targets all community members as potential agents of social change and seeks to engage them in proactive behaviors.

Emerging evidence suggests that a bystander-based approach to violence prevention may increase bystander interventions and reduce sexual and dating violence among college students, high school students and male athletes. 

Another project Bush is working on is the ConnectED program. This program seeks to identify the best ways to train incoming UK students using bystander intervention programming along with strategies that address alcohol abuse prevention.

Since 2009, Bush has worked with Coker investigating the health impacts of violence. During that time she has worked closely with the UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center and the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which serves as an opportunity for individuals to think about their role in ending intimate partner violence in our communities. 

"Bystander violence prevention programs share a common philosophy that all members of the community have a role in shifting social norms to prevent violence," Bush said. "The ultimate goal is to educate the community to recognize situations that promote violence and to safely and effectively intervene. Awareness month is an opportunity to remind us that we are part of this community and we all have a role to play."

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