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Research Briefs

By Barbara Girardin, PhD, MSN, RN, SANE-A – Column Editor
On The Edge – 2011


Childhood Adversities Bullying

Vaughn, M.G., Fu, Q, Beaver, K., DeLisi, M., Perron, B., & Howard, M. (2011).
Effects of childhood adversity on bullying and cruelty to animals in the United States: Findings from a national sample.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(17), 3509-3525. doi:10.1177/0886260511403763. Contact M. Vaughn St Louis University

This study tested the hypothesis that childhood adversities like being pushed or having people swear at them have a greater effect on later bullying than on later cruelty to animals. Both bullying and cruelty to animals begins in childhood and is associated with aggression and violence in adulthood.  Bullying is often done to increase social status or to gain material or interpersonal advantage.

The data was taken from a National Epidemiologic Survey of non-institutionalized adults. The bullying and cruelty to animal questions were embedded in a series of questions. One example is: In your entire life did you ever bully or push people around or try to make them afraid of you?

The results showed that the childhood adversities that were significant to later bullying were:    

Threatening to hit or throw something; pushing shoving, slapping; hitting that left bruises, marks or injuries

The adversities related to cruelty to animals were being the recipient of: swearing and saying hurtful things; having a parent or adult living in the home that went to jail/prison; experiencing an adult/other person fondling/touching in a sexual way

Authors speculated that interventions that reduce childhood adversities such as bullying might help reduce that victim from bullying others. Olweus (2004) intervention has been an effective intervention to reduce bullying. Cruelty to animals is not impacted by early victimization by bullying behaviors. Animal abusers might attend empathy-development courses and therapy since animal abusers has a deficit on empathy
Olweus, D. (2004). The Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme: Design and implementation issues and a new national initiative in Norway. In P. K. Smith, D. Pepler, & K. Rigby (Eds.), Bullying in schools: How successful can interventions be? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Implications: Although the study results do not reveal a causal relationship between childhood adversities and bullying and cruelty to animals, they do identify significant relationships. The review of the literature is helpful on both bullying and animal abuse.

Victim Blaming

Fox, K.A., & Cook, C. (2011, Nov).
Knowledge Power? The effects of a victimology course on victim blaming.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 2407-3427.
doi: 10.1177/0886260511403752

This study from the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State, Texas looked at how criminal justice students’ perceptions of the blameworthiness of victims and knowledge of victimization issues. The hypothesis tested was, reduction in victim-blaming attitudes will be mediated through an increase in knowledge about victimology. Specifically the students in the experimental treatment studied.

The data was collected from 69 students enrolled in three victimology courses and studying measuring criminal victimization, costs and consequences, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child maltreatment, elder abuse, hate crime victimization, homicide and victimization at work and school. The victimology students used Doerner and Lab’s Victimology text.

The 111 students in other criminal justice courses were the comparison group, who did not have victimology coursework.

Results demonstrated that victimology students in contrast to the other criminal justice students had more knowledge about victims and less victim blaming attitudes. Men were more likely than women to blame victims.

Implications: The study supports that an understanding of victimology helps reduce victim blaming attitudes. However there are other explanations for the reduction in blaming that were not held constant by the study design and could help explain the results. Since students from only one university participated, results need to be studied in other university settings. The question of whether victimology training would reduce victim blaming on the SART is a valuable consideration.

Ketamine Residue

Albright, J. Stevens, S.A., & Beussman, D.J. (2011, Nov.).
Detecting ketamine in beverage residues: Application in date rape detection.
Drug Test Analysis [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1002/dta.335

This study intended to determine if the wet or dry residue from the cup or bottle that was spiked would yield detectable ketamine. The technique of using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) requires less analysis and technician time requires less than one milliliter of liquid residue. Dry residue was also effectively used. The LC-MS method has the advantage over gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) because it is faster and more selective and require minimal sample preparation.

Implication: Examiners should be aware of the possibilities of accessing drug residue and new methods that make identification of drugs, faster and more specific.

Post Mortem Artifacts

Pollanen, M.S. (2011, Nov.).
Forensic pathology and the miscarriage of justice.
Forensic Science, Medicine, Pathology [Epub ahead of print]   doi:10.1007/s12024-011-9299-5

This report from the University of Toronto explains a false conviction of a rape-murder that was overturned by the autopsy findings. Post conviction review of the evidence demonstrated anal dilation and hemorrhages of the neck. Initially these were misinterpreted as injuries, but on appeal the autopsy findings demonstrated the anal dilation was a common postmortem finding as were the hemorrhages of the neck which were due to postmortem hypostasis.

Implications: Even common postmortem artifacts such as these can be misinterpreted.

Bruise Ageing

Grossman, S.E., Johnston, A., Vanezis, P., & Perrett, D. (2011).
Can we assess the age of bruises? An attempt to develop an objective technique.
Medicine, Science and The Law, 51(3), 170-176

The authors of this study from London School of Medicine and Dentistry had three aims. To determine: 1)if the number of years of forensic experience of forensic experts (FEs) impacted the accuracy of  determining the age of bruises, 2)the criteria the FEs used to estimate the age of the bruise, and 3)the usefulness of digital photography and software to more objectively assess changes in bruises and determine age.

23 FEs estimated the ages of 25 photographs of bruises. In the second part of the study bruises were inflicted on a human subject and photographs were taken daily measuring the red, green and blue in Photoshop.

The results revealed that visual assessment of the photographs were unreliable for ageing the bruises and the increasing years of experience as an FE had no effect on accuracy. The photoshop assessment of the red, green and blue was reliable, but it was not valid in establishing the age of the bruise.

Implications: The study further supports the belief that there are limitations in estimating the age of a bruise by a photograph. In the future, techniques may be developed which are able to date bruises, based the color pattern as well as other criteria.

Genital Arousal

Suschinsky, K. D., & Lalumiere, M.L. (2011).
Prepared for anything? An investigation of female genital arousal in response to rape cues.
Psychological Science, 22(2), 159-165.

The purpose of this study from the Department of Psychology, the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada was to identify the difference between women and men’s genital response. Heterosexual men tend to exhibit genital response to adult women and not to men. Heterosexual women, on the other hand exhibit genital response to more varied stimuli, to gay sex or even to nonhuman copulation. The hypothesis that was tested was that women’s sexual response functions whether they want sex or not.

The female genital arousal was measured with vaginal photoplethysmography, which measures changes in vaginal blood flow via changes in light reflectance. Men’s genital arousal was assessed with penile plethysmography.

There were 15 men and 15 women . Men and women were college aged, heterosexual. They experienced 14 audiorecordings that varied on consent, violence, and sexual content.

Results demonstrated women and men’s arousal to be largest for the consensual, nonviolent sexual stimuli and lower for all the other. Women had elevated genital responses to nonsexual consensual violence. And the difference between the nonconsensual nonviolent and that of consensual nonviolent sexual narratives were very similar in women.

Implications: There is a difference in genital arousal between women and men such that women have arousal even when exposed to nonconsensual narratives. Examiners might question if this contributes to the lack of injury in many victims.

Barbara Girardin RN, MSN, PhD, SANE-A has been an SANE for 18 years. She is located in Chesapeake Virginia in a community SANE clinic which serves the Norfolk area military and several civilian jurisdictions including Virginia Beach and rural communities-on the road. She has authored two sexual assault texts, the most recent Sexual Assault Victimization Across the Lifespan and The Color Atlas of Sexual Assault.

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