Criminal Justice Graduate Student Receives National Award

Sam Houston State University criminal justice graduate student Sara Simmons was one of only two students nationally recognized with a Madriz Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences for her research on the effects of intimate partner violence on substance abuse and depression.

Her study, “The effects of intimate partner violence on drugs use and mental health for men and women involved in the NYSFS study,” was presented and recognized at the annual conference in Dallas.

Co-authored by criminal justice assistant professor Kelly Knight and professor Scott Menard, the paper found that men were more likely to increase problematic alcohol consumption, as well as the use of marijuana and illegal drugs, after being victims of intimate partner violence, while women were more likely to increase their use of marijuana after perpetrating the crime.

“Males were more likely to experience problems,” said Simmons. “Females did not have the expected results.”

Every year, 1.8 million women and 835,000 men experience intimate partner violence.

Simmons used the National Youth Survey Family Study—which is ongoing research that has followed 1,725 youth and their families since 1976 to measure changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors—to investigate the impact of intimate partner violence on depression and drug use. Simmons’s study measured the use of problematic alcohol, marijuana, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and depression in following intimate partner violence for both the victim and perpetrator.

Simmons said she was surprised by the results and hopes to investigate the issues further.

Simmons, who said she is “surprised and pleased” to be recognized with the honor, was presented the Madriz Award by the Minorities and Women Section of the Academy, one of two major professional organizations in criminal justice. The award recognizes ethnic and racial diversity in criminal justice education and is designed to advance critical thinking concerning women and gender issues in criminal justice.

“Sara just got accepted to the Ph.D. program, and it was the first paper she ever submitted,” Knight said. “Sara is unique because she is compassionate—she really cares about what happens to women in terms of their victimization. She is willing to roll up her sleeves and do the hard, but often less exciting, work. She often goes above and beyond. ”

Simmons will receive her Master of Arts degree in criminology from SHSU in May and will begin SHSU’s criminal justice doctoral program in August with plans to specialize in victim issues and hoping to teach in the future.

“I’m interested in doing something in victimization,” said Simmons. “I took a victimology course as an undergraduate (at St. Edward’s University), and I am interested in the effects it has on people who are victims.”

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