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Breaking the Cycle of Cyber Dating Abuse

Posted on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Danielle Lambert, a postdoctoral fellow in University of Georgia’s (UGA) College of Public Health, has received a two-year Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award (K01) of $250,000 from the CDC. The competitive award provides “support and ‘protected time’ for an intensive, supervised career development experience in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences leading to research independence.”

Lambert is using the grant to conduct research into the prevalence, frequency, and severity of cyber dating abuse among marginalized adolescents, thirteen to seventeen years of age, as well as to determine ways digital platforms can be used for violence prevention and intervention. She is specifically studying the abuse patterns and negative impacts on sexual and gender minority youth in eight southern states—from Louisiana to North Carolina.

According to Lambert, the project focuses on experiences of violence facilitated by technology.

“The abuse may be texting or calling constantly, using social media to publicly harass people, or posting intimate images or media without the individual’s consent. Some or all of these behaviors are threats to exert control over a person—and may coincide with offline violence. We're interested in whether digital abuse happens simultaneously with other types of abuse, and how severe it is.”

The study, conducted virtually, is one of the first focused efforts to understand how cyber dating abuse affects marginalized teens in the Deep South, where according to one of Lambert’s earlier studies, youth tend to experience more racial and gender bias, housing instability, and barriers to accessing education or basic needs. These teens also face unique barriers in reporting abuse, Lambert says.   

“We're interested in whether marginalized teens seek help when cyber dating abuse or violence happens. They are told to call 911 if someone physically or sexually abuses them, but the laws are less clear if the abuse and violence happens over technology,” she notes.

She used data collected as an ARCS Scholar to apply for the K01 Award  and justify the need for additional research. Lambert says. “The ARCS Award opened many doors for me. I completed the research for my dissertation, which had an impact on my early career trajectory.”

After concluding the study and analyzing the data, Lambert and her team will create a recommendation report that they will disseminate to the CDC, public health departments, and organizations providing support to sexual and gender minorities in the south.  

Lambert hopes her research will help prevent future cyber dating abuse among marginalized teens and provide better access to safety programs geared especially toward sexual and gender minorities.

Danielle Lambert, ARCS Foundation