CURF Introduction: The “I” in Survive

Research provides a means by which we can comprehend our observable world… and attempt to enact change. However, not everyone is familiar with how integral research is to social work, best practice, and helping reinforce advocacy efforts. As a social work student myself, I became very interested in its holistic focus on healing, trauma, and identity, especially in the context of my goal of someday attending medical school and the deep interest I have in public health and physiological impacts from trauma events. My name is Eva (my Uncle used to call me ‘Eva Las Vegas’ after the Elvis song for a bit of help on the pronunciation), and, as mentioned, I am a junior pursuing a Bphil in Social Work, which means I get to conduct my own personal research project, am pre-med, and am looking forward to minors in chemistry, religious studies, and neuroscience.

My current research is a reflection of myself, my current focus in education, and my intense desire to advocate for survivors of Intimate Partner Violence on the college campus. Our age demographic, unbeknownst to most, is hardest hit by cases of IPV, and often SA (s*x*al as*ualt). One day, I hope to work to further integrate emotional trauma and health concerns such as autoimmune disease, but in the meantime, my work led me to found a survivor-ally collective that seeks to identify community support and individual-initiated leadership as a means of healing. The need for more programs like this, as well as specific physiological risks to survivors of ab*se, is the focus of my research.

PHS’s poster presentation entry on hidden empowerment, my theory of healing, at the 2021 Pitt Diversity Forum!

Project Healing Sideways serves to engage two communities within our student body in a reciprocal fashion, the first being students touched by IPV, whose need for de-stigmatization and alternate means of assistance is emphasized by specialized patterns of mental illness and shame-based stigmatization within the community, but also students that are looking to become more informed and empathetic leaders, specifically those interested in how social and life-experience determinants affect health. By engaging through a “hidden empowerment” model, allies and survivors will assume leadership roles without the need to self-identify, empowering themselves through the support of therapeutic practices integrated into the committee meetings as well as within their community work. This is crucial given the low rate of report within the IPV survivor community as well as the common phenomenon that works in integration with PTSD (which occurs on average in 63.8% of the IPV population) through which survivors often do not immediately recognize their abuse situations, sometimes for months or years after the relationship explicitly ends. Along the way, student participants will have the opportunity to directly impact the educational and wellness-based programs we present by coming up with proposals, advertisements, and the launch itself. This concept is built upon a personal study of how leadership opportunities instigate healing in all areas of wellness, which then provides a distinct opportunity to interact with a community of students that expands into our city and world as a whole, encouraging not only engagement and empowerment, but the ability to engage others as well in order to build a world with less stigmatization and more representation.

Prototype of our first logo for PHS, which was later reimagined by our advocacy chair, Gayatri Gupta-Casale, and can be seen on our social media!

The study will comprise of both a quantitative and qualitative component, the former being contextualized by biomarker data collected through Dr. Nadine Melhem’s PROMISE study based around physiological indicators of suicidal behavior, and the latter defined by an analysis of my formed organization, Project Healing Sideways, and the policies and social work practices put in practice as a means to mitigate the post-traumatic effects of chronic trauma. Not only does Dr. Melhem’s data set comprise of a people-first approach on intervention, it also is a heady reminder of what unfortunately, too often, occurs when vulnerable populations are put to the way-side. I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity through CURF to further investigate how multidimensional analyses of chronic trauma care can help us increase likelihood of long-term coping and, hopefully one day, thriving.

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