Noël Busch-Armendariz
Director & Principal Investigator |

Noël Bridget Busch-Armendariz, PhD, LMSW, MPA, is a full Professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, teaching graduate courses in administration and planning, social policy, research, and domestic violence. Dr. Busch-Armendariz is Director and Principal Investigator of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Her professional interests include: violence against women and children; social and public policy; social justice; international social work education, training and practice; and adoption and child welfare issues… In her spare time, she likes to learn all about super heroes, bake, cook, and dream about days past when she had a training schedule. >>MORE

Bethany L. Backes
Director of Research & Evaluation |

Bethany L. Backes, PhD, MSW, MPH, is a Research Associate and the Director of Research and Evaluation. Her areas of scholarship broadly encompass research and evaluation on violence against women (VAW) including formal and informal help-seeking trajectories, secondary and tertiary violence prevention strategies, and criminal justice and community-based interventions related to intimate partner, sexual, and stalking victimization. Her overarching goal is to develop and adapt measures, methods, and interventions to enhance victim engagement and autonomy at the systems level (health, community-based, and criminal justice).

Dr. Backes spent a decade directing research and evaluation on VAW and violent victimization at the National Institute of Justice/U.S. Department of Justice. She served as a VAW liaison across the Federal government and worked closely with the Office of the Vice President on domestic violence homicide prevention, campus sexual assault, offender interventions, and sexual assault kits. She has direct practice experience in health education and non-profit management and has worked extensively with survivors of violent crime, first responders, and criminal and community-based organizations. >>MORE

Margaret Bassett
Deputy Director & Director of Expert Witness Program |

Picture of Margaret Bassett

Margaret Bassett, LPC-S, is the Deputy Director and Director of Expert Witness Program at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin. She provides consultation and training on the use of expert witnesses in cases involving interpersonal crimes. Margaret has worked in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault for more than 30 years in a variety of settings, most recently in the criminal justice system working with victims of intimate partner violence felony crimes. She testifies as an expert witness in criminal and civil court cases and teaches a graduate course on domestic violence. Margaret received her Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University and is a licensed professional counselor. She served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Her professional interests include: violence against women; intimate partner violence; sexual assault; trauma; safety planning and risk assessment. >>MORE

Mariel Dempster
Research Program Coordinator

Mariel Dempster is the Research Program Coordinator at IDVSA. After graduating from The Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a degree in English Literature and she has since worked in a various roles in academia supporting professors, students, and fellow staff. She is thrilled to facilitate the mission of IDVSA and aid its team in all aspects of its operation, from providing editorial assistance and communications support, to developing and maintaining internal protocol, event planning, and providing pre- and post-award support to IDVSA’s many grants and projects. Mariel has a love of all things literary, and enjoys backpacking, running, and podcast-listening in her free time.

Sara Dube
Project Manager |

Sara Dube, MPH, CHES is a Research Project Manager at IDVSA. She received her Master’s in Public Health from UTHealth in Houston, and will be working primarily on the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) project, which focuses on issues of sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault at UT System institutions of higher education. Sara’s background is in developing, implementing, and evaluating public health interventions focused on adolescent sexual health, cancer, and obesity and chronic disease prevention. In these areas, she has experience working in both research and community settings. Her professional interests include: sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young adults; specifically, risk reduction sexual health education and communication, and access to resources and environments that reduce risk and promote sexual wellness. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her family, exploring around Austin, and working on projects around the house.

Eva Ebert
Project Manager

Eva Ebert, MA, is a research project manager at IDVSA.  She works primarily on the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) project, which focuses on issues of sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault at UT System institutions of higher education. She has experience working directly with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as a sexual assault crisis responder and domestic violence emergency shelter supervisor. Her prior work includes longitudinal, cross-sectional research on postsecondary education experiences and employment trajectories of bachelor’s degree recipients. She graduated summa cum laude from Appalachian State University in 2014 and earned a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from Appalachian State University in 2016.

Matt Kerwick 
Affiliated Researcher mattkk@ic2.utexas.edu33065ea

Dr. Kerwick has extensive experience applying forecasting and conjoint analysis to early-stage product assessments. Typical engagements include product concept viability and optimization studies, post-launch awareness and usage tracking, customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys, market segmentation studies, as well as qualitative methodologies that incorporate predictive modeling at the individual respondent level. >>MORE

T’Shana McClain
Project Manager

T’Shana McClain, MSW is a Research Project Manager at IDVSA.  She received her Master of Social Work from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Shana has provided counseling, crisis intervention, and case management services to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in institutions of higher education and community-based settings in the rural South. She has also experienced working in community organizing across the South to promote full LGBT equality and support grassroots organizers. Her professional interests include: intimate partner violence; sexual violence; perpetration risk factors; mass incarceration; suicide postvention; and resiliency in marginalized populations. In her spare time, she likes to read nonfiction, participate in trivia nights, and travel.  >>MORE

Caitlin Sulley
Director of Sexual Assault Research Portfolio

Caitlin Sulley, LMSW, is Director of the Sexual Assault Research Portfolio at IDVSA. The Sexual Assault Research Portfolio consists of a variety of research, evaluation, and training projects aimed to build knowledge on sexual assault. Sulley currently directs research and training initiatives focused on institutional response to sexual assault, gender-based violence among college populations, and victim engagement in the criminal justice system. She served survivors of sexual assault and family violence in law enforcement and community-based settings. Her professional interests include: violence against women; social justice; intimate and interpersonal violence; multidisciplinary response to sexual assault; victim services; trauma-informed care; social and public policy; violence prevention; vicarious trauma and resiliency; research and evaluation; organizational development and culture. In her spare time, she enjoys connecting with her sisters and playing with her dogs.  >>MORE

Melanie Susswein
Director of Marketing and Communications 

Melanie Susswein, MSW, is the director or marketing and communications at IDVSA. She earned her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania.

Melanie is an award winning social marketing communicator and project manager. Social Marketing is the discipline of marketing to change behavior, generally a health behavior.  Before coming to UT, she worked for 14 years for SUMA Social Marketing in Austin, including as vice president of account services and business development. Her clients included: Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the March of Dimes, the Utah Department of Health, the Arizona Department of Health, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and Harris County Health. Melanie’s portfolio includes extensive work on women’s health issues including preconception, interconception, breastfeeding, and postpartum care. She has also worked with and on behalf of children with special health-care needs and disabilities and a wide array of diverse populations in Texas and around the country. Melanie was the project manager and senior strategist for award-winning preconception campaigns in Utah and Arizona and the website in Texas, which won two Communicator Awards. She has also worked on violence prevention with military families, and several fatherhood educational and violence prevention initiatives.  Early in her career she worked on the Children’s Health Insurance Program and on in-home emergency communications for the aged. She completed a year of service in Israel for the domestic violence prevention program called, Woman to Woman.

Melanie loves to travel, eat good food, swim, hike and spend time with family. She and her husband have a son and daughter, both of whom are high school students at Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy. Her other loves include her Rocky, the cutest dog ever.

Jennifer Thompson
Project Manager | 

Jennifer Thompson is a Research Project Manager at IDVSA. She currently works on a variety of projects within both the sexual assault and intimate partner violence portfolios, as well as providing service to the field via education and training. Jennifer was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and returned to the U.S. to attend the University of Texas at Austin. She served as an officer in the United States Public Health Service in Tucson, AZ with the Indian Health Service working on injury prevention evaluation and programming prior to pursuing her Master of Public Health. Jennifer comes to IDVSA most recently from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) where she served as a researcher and a campus law enforcement training specialist. Her areas of expertise include the dynamics and impact of sexual assault within institutional environments, barriers to engagement, secondary victimization, and effective policing responses.

Her professional interests include: public health approaches to the prevention and response to sexual violence, secondary trauma, and the effective assessment of the impacts of sexual violence. Specifically, she has an interest in resiliency among survivors

and those responding to sexual violence, improving responses across all aspects of the criminal justice system, reducing the impact of vicarious trauma, and in incorporating survivor voices in to training content. Jennifer is a certified TCOLE instructor and has taught courses on crime victimization and sexual assault at local, state, regional, and national levels.

She is currently working towards her Masters of Public Health at Michigan State University.

Alex Wang
Research Associate |

Picture of Alex Wang

Alex Wang earned their Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Gender Studies. They also earned their Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. They aspire to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology or a related field in order to help sexual minority people in their emotional lives. Their professional areas of interest include clinical psychology, social justice, sexual wellness, sexual assault prevention, and research and advocacy concerning LGBTQ+ and other sexual minority people. In their spare time, Alex enjoys tabletop roleplaying games, video games, webcomics, traveling, cooking, and spending time with friends.>>MORE