Dr. Jill Levenson, PhD, LCSW, Professor of Social Work at Barry University, is part of a research team that has recently received a $1.6 million, four-year research grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention! Under the leadership of Principal Investigator Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau of Johns Hopkins University, the Help Wanted Prevention Project will test the effectiveness of an online psycho-educational intervention in helping to prevent sexual abuse perpetration before it happens. This project is the first of its kind in the U.S. The goal of this groundbreaking study is to provide a prevention resource for people who have an attraction to minors and are at risk to abuse. In doing so, the research team aims to establish that child sexual abuse can be preventable, rather than inevitable.
Dr. Jill Levenson is a SAMHSA-trained, internationally-recognized expert in trauma-informed care. She studies the impact and effectiveness of social policies and therapeutic interventions designed to reduce sexual violence, as well as the prevalence and impact of adverse childhood experiences and their influence on adult health, mental health, and criminality.
Dr. Levenson’s résumé is immense, to say the least. She’s been a practicing clinical social worker for over 30 years, using a scientist-practitioner model to inform her research and her work with survivors, offenders, and families impacted by sexual abuse. She has published over 100 articles about policies and clinical interventions designed to prevent sexual abuse, which have collectively been cited over 8,800 times. Her innovative research on the link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and sexually abusive behavior has paved the way for advances in treatment programs that now utilize a trauma-informed approach. Dr. Levenson been invited as a keynote speaker about trauma-informed care and sexual abuse for clinical, correctional, and forensic conferences in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, and over 20 U.S. states.
In 2019, Dr. Levenson was named by the Journal of Social Service Research as being among the top 100 most influential social work scholars. She was also honored in 2019 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. In 2017, she was the recipient of Barry's Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year Award, and in 2020 she was inducted to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare — an honor society dedicated to high-impact work that advances social justice and the public good — to name just a few of her accolades. She has also co-authored five books about the treatment of sexual abuse, including the recently released Trauma-Informed Care: Transforming treatment for people who have sexually abused, and Healing from Sexual Violence: The case for vicarious restorative justice.
While their project is just beginning, it’s clear that the passion and dedication of Dr. Levenson and her colleagues in the Help Wanted Prevention Project are certain to have major impacts on preventing sexual trauma for many years to come, and we couldn’t be prouder of her!