Addressing Sexual Violence through Institutional Courage

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This collaborative special project has two interrelated goals. One is to nurture a research and action agenda for addressing sexual violence through institutional courage. The other is to give birth to an enduring organization with the working name The Center for Institutional Courage (CIC).   

Overview: This project (1) engages in social science research on the inter-connected problems of sexual violence, DARVO, and institutional betrayal, as well as policy applications of institutional courage, and (2) will design and launch a new research and outreach center, currently named the Center for Institutional Courage (CIC), as a national hub devoted to interdisciplinary basic and translational research. While there are many domains in our society in which institutional betrayal is rife and in which we urgently need institutional courage, the CIC will initially focus on sexual violence.

From Institutional Betrayal to Institutional Courage: The term "Institutional Betrayal" refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution. Research has documented the harm to individuals and institutions caused by institutional betrayal. The antidote to institutional betrayal is “Institutional Courage.” Our preliminary research indicates institutional courage is good for both individuals and institutions. We have identified various research-based steps toward institutional courage including leadership education, conducting anonymous surveys, being accountable and open to apology, education regarding responding well to disclosures and reports, engaging in self-study, keeping data and policies transparent, and rewarding truth-telling.

Partners: Our partners include the Freyd Dynamics Lab at the University of Oregon, the Stanford Center on Health and Stress at the School of Medicine at Stanford University, and the VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University. For the 2019-20 academic year we will also constitute a working group at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

Support: We are grateful to Silence Breakers Alliance for seed support. Interested in learning more? Contact Project Director Jennifer Freyd at and explore the possibilities. Your support truly matters.

Who We Are


Director: Jennifer J. Freyd, Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, Visiting Scholar at Stanford Medical School, and Faculty Affiliate of the VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University.

Freyd is also currently a Member of the Advisory Committee, 2019-2023, for the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and leader of a Working Group on Addressing Sexual Violence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, 2019-20, where she was a Fellow, 1989-90 and 2018-19.

Advisors: Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan, and Former Fellow, 2018-19, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University(CASBS); Mike Baiocchi, Asst. Professor of Medicine (Stanford Prevention Research Center), Stanford; Christine Blasey , Fellow 2019-20, CASBS, and Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University; Shelley J. Correll, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, Stanford University, and Faculty Fellow 2019-20, CASBS; Estelle B. Freedman, Professor of History, Stanford University and Faculty Fellow 2018-19, CASBS; Jennifer Gómez, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, Wayne State University; Allyson Hobbs, Associate Professor of History and Director of African and African American Studies, Stanford University; Ashley Judd, feminist social justice humanitarian, actress, #MeToo movement leader, founding member of Time’s Up; Kim Scott, author, CEO coach, previously at Apple University, Co-Founder of Radical Candor; David Spiegel, Willson Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Director of the Center on Stress and Health, and Medical Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine; Vanessa Tyson, Former Fellow 2018-19, CASBS, and Associate Professor of Politics, Scripps College; Kirsten Wysen, Former Fellow 2018-19, CASBS, and Policy Analyst, Public Health-Seattle & King County.

Research Team

We are actively working on several research projects investigating institutional betrayal, DARVO, and institutional courage, with graduate students and faculty colleagues at Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz, and the University of Oregon. From Stanford Sociology: Christianne Corbett, Chloe Hart. From Stanford School of Medicine: Mike Baiocchi and Clea Sarnquist. From Wayne State University: Jennifer Gómez. From UC Santa Cruz Psychology: Sarah Harsey. From University of Oregon Psychology: Alexis Adams-Clark, Melissa Barnes, Monika Lind, and Alec Smidt.


Presentations and Workshops

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