A $1.8 million grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to researchers at the University of New Hampshire will focus on evaluating and implementing violence prevention programs in Rapid City schools.
Officials say the four year grant continues work on reducing violence among teens and adolescents.
UNH researchers have partnered with state organizations like the South Dakota Network Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence and “Teen Up”, a sexual violence prevention initiative, to carry out the grant program.
Cynthia Tobin is a project specialist with the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. She says there is a clear need for violence education programs in middle and high schools.
Tobin says data shows sexual violence in particular is not a college aged issue.
“When you look at statewide data such as the Behavioral Youth Risk Survey that kind of data demonstrates how early sexual violence can occur and those surveys will ask questions such as “Were you kissed without permission?” “Were you touched without permission?” so those questions would help us understand if there has been consent and we’ve been noticing surveys across the nation that have helped us identify that sexual assault is happening at a younger age and maybe people are just not talking about it,” says Tobin.
Tobin adds that information gathered from studying teens and adolescents could help create new approaches to violence prevention.
“We’re also going to understand how this prevention strategy is helpful in Rapid City and how maybe this could be replicated in other parts of South Dakota,” says Tobin.
Tobin says there are many towns in South Dakota that want to create new violence prevention efforts. She says research from the UNH grant could jumpstart those initiatives.
Officials say by next fall evaluations could be underway in Rapid City schools.