Sarah Boggins, one of two social work graduates studying domestic violence
Sarah Boggins, one of two social work graduates studying domestic violence

The National Network to End Domestic Violence relays a grim statistic: 1,200 people receive services for domestic violence in Kentucky agencies every day of the year.

To help discover new and better best practices to fight this overwhelming issue, UofL Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work and Family Science students are making the most of a unique domestic violence research opportunity through a three-year grant from Public Health Americorps and a partnership with Arizona State University.

D.J. Martin, one of two Kent School graduates taking her expertise to domestic violence prevention.
D.J. Martin, one of two Kent School graduates taking her expertise to domestic violence prevention.

UofL’s Kent School was the only school in Kentucky, and one of only 13 schools nationally, to be selected as a SurvivorLink site. SurvivorLink provides future social workers trained in violence against women with pathways to public health-related careers.

“The students are the most critical piece,” said Heather Storer, associate professor at Kent School. “They are doing the hard work of cross-training and messaging into new arenas.”

For Sarah Boggins and D.J. Martin, two UofL Master of Science in Social Work graduates who participated in the project during its inaugural year, SurvivorLink provided them the chance to carry the knowledge they gleaned and new tools they developed into their advocacy in ways that will make a real difference.

It helped Boggins define a career niche at the intersection of social justice, youth development and domestic violence prevention.

“SurvivorLink prioritizes prevention and takes an anti-violence approach to their curriculum,” Boggins said. “It gave me an increased motivation and passion for youth work and for incorporating the prevention techniques I learned into the youth development area.”

As a first lieutenant stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, Boggins is a diversity and inclusion trainer and executive officer in the 92nd Maintenance Group. She plans to start law school at the University of Washington in summer 2023.

“Social justice is really where my heart lies,” Boggins said. “With numerous anti-trans laws coming out that affect trans youth, it is more pressing than ever to contribute to that community work and to fight the legislation that is going to further oppress and harm that community.”

Martin, also active-duty military, is a staff sergeant and interim deputy of health information management at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. As a victim advocate, she supports the training and development of the U.S. Army’s programs around domestic violence and sexual assault to address the epidemic within the military culture.

According to Martin, top levels of leadership is not where systemic change will start.

“We need to identify it and talk about it in middle management where the people are actually affected by sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence, and where the changes actually happen,” Martin said. “It is so important for us at this level to be the change that we want to see. I am prepared to go out into the world and make it a better place.”

Storer says reaction to the SurvivorLink program has been overwhelmingly positive, and the department plans to expand the cohort and eligibility for participants for the remaining two years of the grant.

“I am excited seeing the program grow and deepen, and we are hopeful to continue to learn from our students’ experiences.”