Undergraduate student Olivia Blythe wants to help women who have been victimized not only by their abuser, but by the court system as well.
She has spent the past year observing the legal process that someone undertakes to obtain an Order of Protection From Abuse (PFA) in the Family Court division of the New Castle County courthouse. Working with faculty member Ruth Fleury-Steiner, Blythe is now inputting data into a system — coding women’s recorded responses and correcting errors to better reflect the actual interviews — and helping to conduct preliminary analysis.
Fleury-Steiner, associate professor of human development and family studies, and Susan Miller, professor of sociology and criminal justice, established a longitudinal study of women’s experiences with the civil protection orders, in partnership with the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and in cooperation with Delaware’s Family Court.
“Quite frankly, this research project would not have been possible without undergraduate research assistants. Olivia is one of a handful who have stood out, in part because of her motivation and interest in the topic,” said Fleury-Steiner.
Blythe, a human services and women and gender studies major plans to make a career assisting and advocating for survivors of domestic abuse. When she learned that Fleury-Steiner was looking for assistance on this study, she jumped at the chance. “This research has pointed out gaps in the civil court system that will better my future advocacy practice and informed me of the resources available,” said Blythe.
Once completed, the findings will be published in academic journals, but also shared with Family Court and advocates across the state, to ensure women’s needs are being addressed.