A random assignment has turned into a passion project for Assistant Professor Jaya Davis – one that holds potential impact on families, law enforcement and future efforts to curb domestic violence.
In fall 2011, Davis was recruited to replace a Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty member as university liaison for the Tarrant County Sex Abuse Advisory Council. She represented UT Arlington at the council’s 2012 conference and formed a working relationship with council officials, including those working on a new project, One Safe Place.
This fall, Davis was included in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new family justice center, the result of partnerships between the Safe City Commission, the National Family Justice Center Alliance (NFJCA) and a dozen local and regional agencies.
“This project, years in the making, is a one stop for victims of domestic violence,” Davis said. “This is the epitome of a private-public solution to a social problem.”
The facility, located at 1100 Hemphill St. in Fort Worth, offers a variety of client services, including counseling, shelter referrals, job skills training, professional attire for interviews, child care, law enforcement interviews, Child Protective Services consultations, Tarrant County district attorney consultations and legal aid. Those seeking help with domestic violence issues no longer have to drive to more than two dozen different locations to take advantage of the services available.
Davis said she’s been inspired by the commitment and the work of those serving Tarrant County families.
“My passion [for this project] comes from seeing the dedication of people who are offering these services,” she said. “To know that one in four women are going to be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives… I look around my class and see quite a few people who could have been affected by domestic violence.”
The five-story building also offers space for researchers like Davis. Over the past two years, One Safe Place and CRCJ have become research partners, developing a project that examines law enforcement perception of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Once complete, Davis said, the project would be the largest study of its kind, with nearly 25 agencies participating. Davis said data will be collected through the winter and spring, and she hopes One Safe Place and its affiliates will be able to use their findings to develop new curriculum and training by next summer.
Davis said there is also opportunity for collaboration with other University programs, including service-learning projects, student internships and cross-discipline coursework to view victimization holistically through CRCJ, social work, women’s studies, nursing, psychology and biology. Currently, she said, the NFJCA reports there is no U.S. university that offers an education component that incorporates all the issues connected with victim services. Davis’ unique relationship with One Safe Place has enabled her to invite experts to speak in her master’s level classes, and she said she’s seen an immediate impact with UT Arlington students.
“I applaud Dr. Davis’ work with One Safe Place and the ways in which they are bringing together her own research, teaching and community outreach,” said Dr. Beth Wright, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “I look forward to seeing faculty and students across the College of Liberal Arts and UT Arlington address the significant and complex issue of domestic violence.”
For Davis, who has previously published papers on juvenile crime, the partnership with One Safe Place and the current research project pushed her expertise and focus deeper into the dynamics of American families.
“The earlier we can identify the risk factors, the more we can prevent the negative outcomes,” she said. “Witnessing domestic violence is one of the greatest traumas that will predict whether a juvenile will be successful or not. Even if I don’t see the impact it will make with the mother, I know it will be better for the kids.”
(Story by James Dunning/COLA Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org)