steve sartori
Janine Castle G'98 studies women's responses to rape.
Rape-prevention programs generally do a good job of teaching women to defend themselves against attackers. But learning self-defense doesn’t necessarily give women the confidence to use the techniques in a crisis. Psychology doctoral student Janine Castle G’98 hopes her research on women’s responses to rape will help create a systematic approach to teaching women self-efficacy—the power to influence outcomes. “If you don’t feel confident defending yourself, you’re not likely to use self-defense techniques,” she says. “You’re not going to resist because you don’t feel you can succeed.”
      Castle’s work in predicting behaviors that prevent rape garnered her a student research award from the American Psychological Association, as well as a scholarship award from the SU Women’s Studies Program. She’s long been interested in women’s issues, having researched responses to the threat of rape as her thesis for a master’s degree in psychology. For her doctoral work, she set out to learn why some women choose active responses—such as kicking their attacker, screaming, or running away—while others react passively, trying to plead with the rapist or turning cold and unresponsive. “It’s better for women if they use more active responses and a greater number of responses to defend themselves,” she says. “These women end up resisting rape.” Further Analysis showed a significant relationship between a woman’s self-efficacy and past experience with sexual assault, Castle says. “The women who had experienced a prior sexual assault or rape were more accurate in their estimations of their ability to cope with the situation,” she explains. “Those who felt more capable of coping with the threat of rape were more likely to choose a greater number of prevention behaviors. Women without that experience were unable to predict how they would cope, and showed no relationship between their abilities and choice of prevention behaviors.”
      Self-efficacy is commonly used in psychological study, Castle says. “You see the same thing when you’re looking at how students perform in school. If they feel capable, they perform better and keep performing. If they don’t feel capable, they shy away from the subject or don’t do as well.” While some rape-prevention programs address self-empowerment, Castle says, almost none take a systematic approach to building it. “Many programs do things that improve self-reliance indirectly, or in a less scientific manner,” she says. “But these programs could actually measure self-efficacy and focus on improving it. The idea would be to expose women to prevention behaviors so they could feel more comfortable with such behaviors and become more confident. And if they feel more confident, in the event of a rape, they will better defend themselves.”
                                                                                                                                                            —GARY PALLASSINO



Learning how to care for people who are hungry, homeless, or homebound is the motivation behind the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s Community Service Project. During a three-week rotation at local emergency food programs, graduate-level dietetic students explore the special nutritional needs of disadvantaged populations. Participating agencies include outreach kitchens, food banks, and senior nutrition programs. “We believe community service experience helps students put a human face on hunger and poverty,” says Debra Connolly, field placement administrator. “As a result, they’ll be more sensitive when encountering clients with special needs in hospitals and other settings, and know how to make appropriate referrals.”
      The Community Service Project, the first of its kind in the nation, was created in 1989 with a $40,000 grant from the Allen Foundation. Before the project began, nutrition faculty discovered that many dietetic students were hesitant to work with low-income families. “We want students to take off their clinical caps, know what real life is like, and learn that nutrition is only one piece of many complex issues going on in people’s lives,” says Kelly Boswell, community services coordinator. “We want to take students out of the ‘health care box’ and prepare them to help people of all ages and circumstances.”
      With support from three additional Allen Foundation grants, the scope of the Community Service Project expanded to include dietetic research and education. During the past 11 years, students helped prepare a policies and procedures manual for the Food Bank of Central New York; updated a section of the Onondaga County Food Resources Guide for food co-ops; prepared easy-to-read leaflets on nutritional tips and shopping ideas to extend the family food dollar; and developed sample snack ideas, cooking demonstrations, and informal talks on the importance of following good nutritional habits. This year a new component was added, with each student acting as a client in a simulation designed to provide insight into what it’s like to apply for public assistance. “This experience serves our graduates well as professional dietitians dealing with vulnerable populations,” Connolly says.
      The Community Service Project is now fully integrated into the dietetic curriculum and continues to attract students from all walks of life. Many students choose to come to SU specifically for the community service rotation, and go on to rewarding careers in community nutrition. Several Onondaga County WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coordinators completed the program, and former community services coordinator Elizabeth Crockett G’85 is now the executive director of the Central New York office of Family Ties, a perinatal health organization. “It’s truly remarkable for a dietitian to head such an agency,” Connolly says. “It shows that the Community Service Project is having a significant impact on the field of community nutrition.”
                                                                                                                                                      —CHRISTINE YACKEL

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