Dr. Kaufman-Parks Speaks on Intimate Partner Violence

By Jordan Gablaski:

On Thursday April 4th, the Assumption College Women’s Studies Department held their 3rd Annual faculty lecture. Dr. Carl Robert Keyes, the Director of the Women’s Studies Department, started of the night by giving some background on the program. It now offers both a minor and major option for students interested in studying the roles of women through interdisciplinary courses. Dr. Keyes then introduced Dr. Angela Kaufman-Parks, the guest speaker at Thursday night’s event, and an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Assumption. Dr. Kaufman-Parks earned her Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University, and has taught courses at Assumption for the past five years. Many of Dr. Kaufman-Parks’s students were in attendance. After reading through Dr. Kaufman-Parks extensive and impressive list of credentials, publications, and affiliations, Dr. Keyes left Dr. Kaufman-Parks in the spotlight to discuss the findings of her study on Intimate Partner Violence.

Dr. Kaufman-Parks’s study focuses on adolescents and young adults from the ages of 15-25, and looks at the ways in which gender and family can influence an individual’s future with regard to Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV. Many people are unaware of how often IPV occurs, especially among the younger population and especially when the male is not the perpetrator of violence. Dr. Kaufman-Parks spoke about how many studies of IPV focus on an older age group, and she wanted to discover how exposure to IPV in younger years can impact an individual’s future. “10% of high school students experience physical IPV,” and “1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men say that their experience began between the ages of 11 and 17.” These people learn through experience, from parents or adult figures in their lives, what is ‘normal’ in a romantic relationship. Furthermore, the relationship an individual has with one or both of their parents also has an effect on future relationships. This factor, known as Parent Child Relationship Quality (PCRQ), can explain why perpetrators in IPV act out violently to romantic partners later in life, because of lack of self-esteem, trust and dependability in the family unit.

However, not all young people who experience IPV or are exposed to it by parents go on to become violent toward romantic partners. For the male population, the main predictor of IPV is childhood abuse, but for females the predictors are not so clear. “Women are just as likely if not more likely to engage in violence,” Dr. Kaufman-Parks said. She cited the ever-growing movement of gender equality as a reason that women feel empowered to become violent in relationships. Furthermore, she said there is less stigma about a woman being violent toward a man than there is for a man being violent toward a woman. Also, men tend not to be vocal about IPV because to be abused by a woman is very often thought of as less masculine. In order to illustrate this fact, Dr. Kaufman-Parks showed a brief but fascinating video about IPV in which two actors were hitting each other in public to see what kind of reactions they’d receive. When the male actor was verbally abusive to his ‘girlfriend’ for ‘cheating’ and began to shove her around forcefully, there was an immediate uproar of bystander response on behalf of the female. However, this was not the case in the scenario when the female actress was abusive to her ‘boyfriend’. In this scenario, many bystanders laughed and kept walking; no one stopped to help.

Dr. Kaufman-Parks’s study yielded results similar to other studies, which show Parent Child Physical Aggression is a positive predictor of male perpetration in IPV but not so for females, and PCRQ is a negative predictor for both male and female IPV perpetration. This means for females, there is typically more than one factor influencing them to become involved in IPV, and that is the better one’s relationship is with one’s parents, regardless of gender, the less likely they are to become violent to an intimate partner. The way in which a person is raised can have a direct effect on a future of violence if the individual is not close to their family, or does not feel their family cares about them or can be trusted and relied upon.

At the end of her lecture, Dr. Kaufman-Parks stressed the importance of bystander interference. “Violence is not a gendered issue”, she said, it is wrong no matter if the perpetrator is male or female. She also urged the audience to recognize the signs of IPV, and get involved in the many volunteer programs that offer help to victims of IPV.

Dr. Kaufman-Parks explains why her research is important.

If you want to get involved, PAWS (Peers Advocating Wellness for Students) is located in Hagan Campus Center and has meetings every Wednesday from 7:30-8:30 in Tsotsis 227.

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