"Adrian" was five years old the first time someone paid to have sex with her. She was also abused by her mother's live-in boyfriend when she was 12. When she was 15, she ran away and right into the hands of a pimp, who told her he loved her, and that she could help support them by having sex with the men he brought by. She balked at this at first, but when he beat and raped her, she did it. Adrian was picked up by the cops in a raid at a house where five other teenage girls were being sold for sex. She was sent to a juvenile detention facility and charged with prostitution. The FBI agent working the case told staff at the home about a place he had heard of where children who were commercially sexually exploited could get treatment and the tools to help them recover from their trauma. Adrian is now part of a group that talks to young people about staying safe, about what a healthy relationship looks like and what it feels like to want to live again.

Adrian's journey from trauma to triumph is one that would not have been possible without the work of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Its research on human trafficking in Texas provided Texas legislators with evidence-based recommendations to guide their efforts to improve laws and social services for human trafficking victims. IDVSA's work to identify models of programs that serve this unique population is shaping curriculum and best practices for the field to use to meet the needs of this unique population. Students who worked with IDVSA are taking first-hand knowledge and research with them to their jobs in social work. Staff in Dubai apply these best practices to their work with women and children, drawing on lessons they learned through IDVSA's certification program. And IDVSA's ongoing collaboration with the field helps increase the effectiveness of interventions that take place the first time a child becomes a victim.

Benefactors of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault make this important work possible.

Where We Are Now

The purpose of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) is reflected in its mission: to advance the knowledge on domestic violence and sexual assault in order to end interpersonal violence for adult and child victims.

IDVSA is unique in that it is a partnership with the practice community. Practitioners are engaged throughout the process--from defining the research agenda to the transfer of the learned knowledge to the field. We provide the field with state-of-the-art research, effective curricula, technical assistance, communications, and educational events.

IDVSA is also the only research institute in the nation that approaches this work from a multi-disciplinary focus. Researchers from the School of Social Work, School of Law and School of Nursing are actively engaged in our education, research, and collaboration initiatives.


Through IDVSA's work, thousands of practitioners and students have received research-based education and thousands of victims and survivors of interpersonal violence have received better services from them as a result of this research-to-practice collaboration.


IDVSA's robust portfolio of educational products are designed for faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, practitioners and allied professionals, such as social workers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and civil attorneys, victim service providers, physicians and nurses working with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

Through its Curriculum Infusion Project, academic courses and internships...

  • Students in social work, law, nursing, women's studies, psychology, sociology and English, received much-needed information about domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students obtained the research and practice skills needed to address survivors' multi-dimensional needs.
  • 63 interns gained direct experience working with victims of violence through collaborations with programs in the Austin/Travis County community.

IDVSA co-sponsored seven national and state conferences and its principal investigators have written more than three dozen publications and conducted hundreds of presentations at state, national and international levels. All told, through its "research-to-practice" focus, thousands of students, professionals and laypeople are reached nationwide each year.

Recent educational initiatives include:

  • A statewide conference that brought research-based training to 179 victim service providers in Texas;
  • A seminar for 124 practitioners and policy-makers on evidence-based interventions for children exposed to violence.
  • A two-day workshop to show practitioners and attorneys how to draw on their knowledge of domestic violence and serve as expert witnesses.

IDVSA also established its first post-doctoral research position and provides hands-on research experience for five graduate students.


IDVSA's research focuses on national and local concerns regarding assistance to survivors of interpersonal violence and their interactions with agencies designed to serve them, attitudes and practices of perpetrators that lead to violence, and new approaches to solving those problems. IDVSA's research examines the intersection of issues of poverty, race, ethnicity, and gender and how these impact the experience of violence.

IDVSA has raised more nearly $2 million and conducted several dozen empirically-based research projects that add to the knowledge about the impact of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and human trafficking on the lives of women and their children and increase our understanding about what causes perpetrators to commit acts of interpersonal violence. In addition, IDVSA provided $40,000 in "Seed Grants" to eight researchers.

Highlights of the more than a dozen empirical research projects conducted in 2008 are:

  • Published an analysis of the efficacy of existing laws and social services in meeting the needs of Texas human trafficking victims. The report was distributed to service providers statewide and is already being used as the foundation for legislation under consideration during the 81st Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.
  • Published its evaluation of the Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Toolkit used by schools throughout Texas. The report guided the development of 2009 materials for educators and practitioners.
  • Presented the first ever research on the typology of human traffickers, providing critical information to law enforcement efforts to stop perpetration of this crime.


IDVSA has more than 150 affiliates that include researchers, practitioners, law enforcement, prosecutors, city, county and state representatives, and faith-based and community organizations.

IDVSA is an active member of nearly a dozen coalitions and task forces, focused on developing interventions and prevention strategies to end interpersonal violence.

A few examples of current collaborative efforts:

  • Facilitates multi-agency council developing a primary prevention plan to end sexual assault in Texas;
  • Consults with the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children to bring policy and practice to this new program; developing training and a certification program for workers.
  • Provided technical assistance to the TCFV in its re-design of the curriculum being used to train workers on the National Domestic violence Hotline and Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

The Future is Bright

Seven years ago, people in Central Texas with an interest and commitment to end domestic and sexual violence had no research entity dedicated to helping them improve their services to victims and survivors. Today, with collaborative partners from academia and the community, IDVSA continues to have a substantial impact on ending interpersonal violence.

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