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The APA Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationship: Connecting Agendas and Forging New Directions

(February 28-29, 2008, Bethesda MD)

Keith E. Davis, Ph. D.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of South Carolina, Columbia

Four hundred fifty psychologists, advocates, and students of interpersonal violence came together to identify issues, areas of collaboration, and potential directions for advocacy, research, and treatment. SPSSI was a collaborating sponsor of this summit, which was a presidential initiative of Alan Kazdin with Division 35 (Society of Women), 56 (Trauma Psychology), as the main sponsors. Jackie White (Division 35) and Bob Geffner (Division 56) took the lead in planning the summit and caste a broad net so that Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, CDC, the University of Kentucky’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women, and 17 other divisions of APA shared their views. The summit reached beyond professional psychology to community advocates, and survivors’ organizations. The day and half meeting allowed researchers, advocates, and service providers from highly specialized areas to share their views of the state of violence in the US and of important new developments in prevention and treatment. 

 Among the grim statistics are that one in four women continue to report rape or sexual assault by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.  At the same time that many other forms of  violence appear to be on the decline in the US, the rates of child maltreatment remain quite high (12.1 per 1,000), and the rates of violence in subpopulations such as the elderly or gay, lesbian, or bisexuals couples are hardly known because of the absence of research, under-reporting to official sources, and the difficulties of securing good data. 

The point of the summit was not to produce a task force report that will collect dust on the library shelf.  Rather the aim was to identify areas of collaboration among quite disparate groups who do not often communicate so that psychology could present a unified program for research, prevention, treatment, and policy.  In short, the goal for the summit was to have an impact on the rates of violence and upon the resources available to survivors of violence.

Kazdin, working with several APA divisions, has ensured that issues relevant to violence will get a major focus at the annual APA convention in Boston.  The coordinating committee for the summit convened in San Diego in September (12-13), 2008 to refine its plans and develop suggestions for how psychology could have a more focused, coordinated impact on the causes and consequences of interpersonal violence. [See the May, 2008 issue of the Monitor on Psychology, pp 30-33, for details on the speakers and their points]. SPSSI will continue to support this initiative because the goals are consistent with SPSSI’s long-term commitment to reducing violence in society and encouraging social justice.

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin