Skip to main content

USD School of Medicine and Partners Help Rural and Native American Survivors of Domestic Violence in South Dakota

Old Main on the University of South Dakota campus The USD Sanford School of Medicine helped secure assistance for a research project that will help learn the needs of rural and Native American survivors of domestic violence in the state.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine has helped secure assistance for a research project that will generate a better understanding of the needs of rural and Native American survivors of domestic violence in South Dakota.

According to Bridget Diamond-Welch, Ph.D., a research scientist at USD’s Sanford School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the project’s grant, Native American and rural people who experience domestic violence often face many barriers such as lack of affordable housing, culturally appropriate services and legal aid. “The focus of this project is to better understand what is needed for these survivors to heal,” said Diamond-Welch.

The three-year research project is funded by the federal Office on Violence Against Women, and involves co-investigators Katie Edwards, Ph.D., and Laura Siller, Ph.D., from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Interviews with domestic violence survivors at the Mitchell (South Dakota) Area Safehouse will commence in Summer 2021.

USD will contribute at several levels. Under the direction of Diamond-Welch, the USD Community Projects team will organize the project. Clara Pierskalla, a researcher in the school of medicine, will organize and manage the project, and Char Green-Maximo, the medical school’s community engagement coordinator, will work with the advisory board to ensure that research findings are returned to tribal organizations. Elise Boxer, assistant professor of history and program coordinator of Native American Studies at USD and director of the Institute of American Indian Studies, will recruit and supervise Native student involvement on the project.

The project is boosted by critical partnerships that are represented on an advisory board helping to guide the research. That advisory board includes representatives from the Mitchell Area Safehouse, South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society, Tate Topa Consulting, Tribal Tech, South Dakota Coalition Ending Sexual and Domestic Violence, Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains and Winyan Wicanyuonihan Oyanke. These organizations will also utilize and disseminate the project’s findings.

This research project, according to its partners, will give voice to an historically marginalized population and provide critical information about the effectiveness of existing services to Native American and rural survivors of domestic violence. The study’s findings will help institutions and agencies providing services to rural and/or Native American domestic violence survivors to refine and tailor those services to achieve improved outcomes. 


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News