Current Projects

Wondering what we’re working on in the Lab?

Check out some of the VVSRL’s current projects below. You’ll find brief descriptions and links to funding sources and project deliverables.

OPD-UNO Collaboration for the Prevention and Intervention of Human Trafficking against Children in Omaha 

In 2017, the Omaha Police Department (OPD) Special Victim’s Unit took the innovative step of collecting data on children who were identified as missing with the aim of better understanding pathways to victimization, including human trafficking, and connecting children to needed services. In 2022, Teresa, Kulig, Ph.D. and Tara Richards, Ph.D. along with SCCJ Ph.D. student Michaela Goldsmith, received funding from the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Community Engagement program to support a new collaboration with OPD’s Special Victims Unit in this endeavor. The current project seeks to fill a critical information gap in our understanding of the risk and protective factors for human trafficking victimization among children who are missing/run away, as well as how and when interventions should be implemented. The ultimate goal of this project is to advance our understanding regarding prevention of human trafficking in this understudied yet vulnerable group. 

Promoting Gender and Racial Equity Through Transformative Housing Policies

Funded by a Great Plains IDeA-CTR Team Development Pilot grant, this project examines the connections between domestic and intimate partner violence, eviction, and racial disparities in Omaha through the development of unique data including information on eviction and criminal justice system involvement. We aim to bring together partners from across governmental agencies, community-based non-profits, and mental health clinics to work holistically toward a data-driven, trauma-informed, restorative-justice approach to housing policies. Investigators include an inter-university and interdisciplinary team from UNO’s Juvenile Justice Institute: Anne Hobbs, J.D., Ph.D., as well as criminology and criminal justice: Tara Richards, Ph.D. (UNO), psychiatry: Michelle Roley-Roberts, Ph.D. (Creighton University), and sociology: Pierce Greenberg, Ph.D. (Creighton University). UNO SCCJ doctoral students, Brian Gildea and Michaela Goldsmith, serve as the graduate research assistants for the project. The team’s findings on the prevalence of DV victimization among those experiencing evictions, and evidence of the “poverty trap” are below.

The project culminated with a summit of more than 50 local service providers where strengths and areas of need regarding safe and affordable housing were mapped, and next steps for research and policy making were discussed.

Minnesota Sexual Assault Kit Research Project

This National Institute of Justice funded-project (NIJ 2019-MU-MU-0095) supports a collaboration between the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office​Alexandra House (a victim service provider), the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (the statewide coalition of sexual assault programs), and researchers at UNO and University of Louisville (UNL). Investigators include UNO’s  Tara Richards, Ph.D., Emily Wright, Ph.D., and Justin Nix, Ph.D. as well as UNL’s Bradley Campbell, Ph.D. Doctoral student research assistants, Caralin Branscum and Michaela Goldsmith are assisting on the project. This researcher-practitioner partnership aims to examine the processes, outcomes, and cost-benefit of the MN Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Project.

A Formative Evaluation and Evaluability Assessment of an Omaha Child Advocacy Center

This National Institute of Justice funded-project (NIJ 2019-V3-GX-0007) supports a formative evaluation and evaluability assessment of Project Harmony, a large child advocacy center (CAC) in Omaha, Nebraska, currently serving children who are victims of alleged child abuse. The ultimate goal is to lay the foundation for future CAC outcome evaluation efforts. Investigators include Teresa, Kulig, Ph.D., Emily Wright, Ph.D., and Ryan Spohn, Ph.D. with Amber Krushas serving as a doctoral student research assistant. Community partner investigators include Debra Anderson, Ph.D., and Lynn Castrianno, Ph.D. with Project Harmony.

Supportive Services Model for Batterer Intervention

This Office of Violence Against Women funded-project (OVW-2019-SI-AX-0002) assesses whether supportive services for common psychosocial problems (e.g., unemployment, mental health problems, substance abuse, and parenting issues) provided by community partners on site at a batterer program – Baltimore, Maryland’s House of Ruth’s Gateway Project – can reduce violent and non-violent criminal re-offending in a high-risk urban sample. Investigators include an inter-university and interdisciplinary team from public health: Charvonne Holiday, Ph.D. (JHU), psychology: Christopher Murphy, Ph.D. (UMBC), and criminology: Tara Richards, Ph.D. (UNO). Community Partners from Baltimore, Maryland’s House of Ruth’s Gateway Project include Ange Manning-Green and Lisa Nitsch.

Mobile Vulnerable Populations in Omaha

This project involves a collaboration between faculty at UNO in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (SCCJ), the Office for Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS), Religious Studies, and Sociology and Anthropology to examine the needs of Omaha services providers for refugees, migrants, human trafficking victims, and the homeless. The purpose of this project is to complete a systematic review of research on services for the select populations, and to create a database of Omaha networks that could assist these vulnerable individuals. Then, interviews and surveys will be used to determine the immediate needs of these community agencies to better serve their clients. Recommendations will be created to inform next steps on facilitating these requests. Investigators across UNO include Teresa Kulig, Ph.D., (SCCJ)Laura Alexander, Ph.D., (Religious Studies), Cristián Doña-Reveco, Ph.D., (OLLAS), and Allison Schlosser, Ph.D., (Sociology and Anthropology), with Morgan McBride, and Sawyer Stender serving as research assistants.

Intimate Partner Cyber Abuse (IPCA)

This project involves the exploration of the prevalence, incidence, and prevention of intimate partner cyber abuse (IPCA). The primary investigators include Leah C. Butler, PhD (UNO), Erica R. Fissel, PhD (University of Central Florida) and Bonnie Sue Fisher, PhD (University of Cincinnati). The research team has developed a new survey instrument to measure the prevalence of IPCA victimization and published research demonstrating the validity and reliability of the measure (Fissel et al., 2021). Upcoming research from the project will present overall IPCA prevalence rates and risk factors from a national sample and will analyze qualitative data to explore the normalization of IPCA behaviors in intimate relationships. UNO SCCJ doctoral student, Brian Gildea, is working with the research team to conduct a study of IPCA victimization among LGBTQ+ individuals and to examine variation in prevalence rates across different types of intimate relationships.