Stories of Research to Reality: Claire M. Renzetti


Claire M. Renzetti
Claire M. Renzetti

In early May SAGE gathered seven social scientists on Capitol Hill to tell stories, stories of their disciplines’so impact on society and the economy, and stories of their own academic journey. The underlying goal of “Stories of Research to Reality: How the Social Sciences Change the World” was both to mark SAGE’s 50th birthday as an independent publisher and to demonstrate the value and impact of social science itself, increasingly under attack as either a waste or a luxury by some legislators.

The entire event, moderated by prominent blogger and George Washington University political scientist John Sides and held at the Hart Senate Office Building, was recorded; the seven individual videos are being published here over the next seven weeks. Each tale presents one facet of the real-world value of actual social and behavioral science research, with the implicit message that this is scholarship we should be encouraging.

The fourth speaker in this series is Claire M. Renzetti, the Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair in the Center for Research on Violence Against Women, and professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Kentucky. Here she talks about the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, the same year that she agreed to be the founding editor of the international, interdisciplinary journal Violence Against Women.

The law, known as VAWA, focused in particular on law enforcement’s response to violence against women, and Renzetti examined how good social science research –VAWA has allocated roughly $70 million in research funding since it was passed, most of that administered through the National Institute of Justice — has helped ensure that the law really does improve that response. “This is not research to satisfy some idle academic curiosity,” Renzetti says; “This is purpose-driven research; it is translational research.”

As an example, she noted how around VAWA’s genesis that best practice –informed by things like the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment and the subsequent Spouse Assault Replication Program — transitioned for arresting abusive intimate partners when the police respond to a call for help instead of what they had usually done before, what Renzetti called “on-the-spot counseling” of talking to couple and then leaving once the white-hot tensions had cooled a bit. But research didn’t end there, and examinations of mandatory arrest policies discovered that police often weren’t sure who to arrest and that abusers were learning to game a system where authorities were told they had to arrest somebody. Plus, victims started to fear arrest if they defended themselves.

Ando so, with social science taking a lead, refined methods are being instituted, from training beat cops how to identify the primary aggressor and determining when violence was actually self-defense, to instituting a coordinated community response in which “the authorities” aren’t just cops but mental health practitioners, counselors, service workers and others.

Renzetti has authored or edited 21 books. Much of her research focuses on the violent victimization experiences of socially and economically marginalized women. Her current research includes an evaluation of a therapeutic horticulture program at a battered women shelter, and studies of the relationship between religiosity, intimate partner violence perpetration, and victimization.

The first speakers in this series were:

Deborah Rupp | William C. Byham Chair in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University. To see her talk, click HERE.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita | Julius Silver Professor of Politics, New York University. To see his talk, click HERE.

John W. Creswell | professor of educational psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. To see his talk, click HERE.

Upcoming speakers in this series include:

Michael Reisch | Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice, University of Maryland

Jim Knight |research associate, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, and director of the Kansas Coaching Project

Kerric Harvey | associate professor of media and public affairs, and associate director of the Center for Innovative Media, George Washington University

SAGE is the parent of Social Science Space.