Crime. Trauma. Drugs. Intimate partner violence. Sex trafficking. Child abuse and neglect.

That may sound like a lineup of topics from episodes of Law and Order: SVU, but it’s not. These are the real-life issues that concern Rebecca Stone on a daily basis.

Stone is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Education at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. Along with earning her B.A. (2007), M.S. (2009), and Ph.D. (2014) degrees in criminal justice, Stone added on a Master of Public Health degree (2012) from Michigan State University.

“I felt that the public health orientation and toolkit was a very useful way of thinking about crime and justice problems, many of which begin as health issues: violence and abuse, mental illness, substance use, poverty, and social inequity,” Stone said. “There’s a growing public awareness that the criminal justice system is not well equipped to respond to the issues that we are asking them to deal with.”

Stone describes herself as an interdisciplinary scholar in the areas of criminal justice and public health, with a focus on justice-involved women. She specializes in community-engaged qualitative research methods including in-depth interviewing, focus groups, and field observations. She said that adding a public health perspective is one way of improving the response to people and communities in crisis.  

“I work directly with communities to improve access to health, safety, and justice; it is deeply meaningful and inspirational for me,” said Stone, who recently completed a three-year fellowship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program.

Alongside Diane Kinney, co-director of a domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocacy organization in Barre, Vermont, Stone conducted a community-based participatory research project on the joint experience of intimate partner violence (IPV) and opioid use. The project included workshops for human services professionals to generate ideas for bridging gaps in service, a cross-training curriculum for peer recovery advocates and IPV survivor advocates, a video to share the results of the research, and an all-day cross-training event for 40 service providers.

“Our work has resulted in a new recovery home for women and children that will also provide IPV support and services, changes to bus routes to facilitate treatment access, and increased opportunities for community advocates to participate in local and state committees looking to address IPV and/or substance use,” Stone said. The project was selected by Interdisciplinary Research Leaders fellows to receive the Team Impact Award.

In a continuation of her work in Vermont, Stone is teaching a graduate-level course this fall on intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

“We’ll be working with the same advocacy organization in Vermont to develop new research-based materials for them,” Stone said. “The students will complete a thorough research synthesis that will be turned into communication products that the organization can use for their work in the community with survivors of violence.”

Stone is also co-PI on a National Science Foundation award to develop and evaluate science communication workshops for early-career researchers.

In addition, she is part of a group of scholars supporting the movement to de-carcerate women.

“Research shows that keeping women in their communities with their support systems—instead of incarcerating them—promotes health and healing, especially in cases of trauma,” she said.

“I really want to encourage people to consider more interdisciplinary approaches, and I think the public health piece complements so many different areas of study,” said Stone, who was recently selected to receive the 2022 Community Engaged Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Division on Women and Crime.

“The emphasis on thinking about upstream and root causes, what motivates and facilitates behavioral change, the environmental and systemic barriers to accessing healthcare and other services, and especially critical perspectives on social inequity and health justice—this is all crucial knowledge for tackling the most urgent issues of our time.”


September 1, 2022