Reaching Others University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
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Amy Hequembourg, PhD

Amy Hequembourg, PhD

Senior Research Scientist


Adjunct Assistant Professor, Sociology

Contact Information

1021 Main Street
Buffalo, NY  14203-1016
Phone: (716) 887-3343

Primary Research Areas

Health disparities among sexual minorities (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals); social inequalities associated with sexual orientation and gender identity; risk taking among vulnerable groups (e.g., sexual minorities, adolescents, heterosexual women); exploring differences in health, discrimination, and self-identity among women (e.g., bisexual compared to lesbian women); developing culturally informed interventions to reduce health disparities and associated risk behaviors among sexual minorities; microaggressions based on sexual orientation; same-sex couples and families; utilizing mixed methods in research.

Identifying Sexual Assault Mechanisms among Diverse Women

Hequembourg | Livingston | Derrick | Collins
In this study, we examine sexual identity differences in the mechanisms associated with sexual assault.

Sexual minority women (i.e., lesbian and bisexual; SMW) have been identified as a group at particularly high risk for experiencing sexual assault, yet our justice system often inadequately responds to their needs. Experiences of bias and stigma contribute to lower rates of sexual assault reporting by this population, resulting in victims with unmet needs and fewer criminal prosecutions of assault perpetrators. However, few empirical studies have systematically examined SMWs' risks for sexual assault, the nature of their assault experiences, and their post-assault experiences. In this study, we use Respondent-Driven Sampling procedures to recruit a community sample of 225 lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (75 each group; ages 18-35 years old) from the Buffalo, New York region to examine sexual identity differences in the mechanisms associated with sexual assault. Baseline self-administered survey data will allow us to determine sexual identity differences in the relationships among individual-level risk factors (i.e., childhood sexual abuse, perceived discrimination, sexual history, PTSD, substance use and related problems) and adult sexual assault. Data from daily diaries administered via the internet will allow us to determine sexual identity differences in the temporal relationship between sexual assault and various mechanisms that elevate sexual assault risks (e.g., substance use, micro-aggressions, sexual partners). Qualitative, face-to-face interviews will allow for the identification of sexual identity differences in the characteristics of, and mechanisms associated with women's sexual assault experiences, particularly women's resistance strategies; assault consequences; and post-assault disclosure, legal reporting, and informal and formal sources of support. These mixed method results will provide novel insights to develop and implement culturally-sensitive services to better address diverse women’s acute needs at the time of a sexual assault and to improve long-term responses from criminal justice systems, including law enforcement, victim services, and anti-violence programs that serve lesbian and bisexual women. 

Principal Investigator
Amy Hequembourg, PhD
Research Institute on Addictions

Jennifer A. Livingston, PhD
Research Institute on Addictions

Jaye Derrick, PhD
Research Institute on Addictions

R. Lorraine Collins, PhD
Department of Community Health and Health Behavior
University at Buffalo

Funding Agency
National Institute of Justice


The Role of Gender and Sexual Identity in Alcohol Use and Victimization

This research examines gender and sexual identity differences in alcohol use and victimization among gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women.

This Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award provided support for advanced statistical and qualitative analytic training (including use of Atlas.ti software), as well as the completion of a mixed-methods study to examine the relationship between victimization and substance use among sexual minority men and women. Extensive baseline surveys were conducted to assess participants’ mental health symptoms, victimization experiences (i.e., sexual aggression, intimate partner violence, bias-based discrimination), substance use, and coping strategies. Event-based qualitative interviews identified characteristics of recent sexual aggression events. Participants included nearly 400 gay men, lesbians, bisexual men and bisexual women, thus allowing for the examination of gender and sexual identity differences in the outcomes of interest from a sexual minority stress perspective. The study was conducted in collaboration with Kathleen A. Parks, PhD, R. Lorraine Collins, PhD, of UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, and Michael R. Frone, PhD).
Funded by a grant of $579,325 from NIAAA, 2006-2012.

College Student’s Perceptions of the Positive and Negative Consequences of Non-Medical Prescription Drug (NMPD) Use

Parks | Darrow | Hequembourg | Lisman | Muraven
Researchers will study non-medical prescription drug use among college students and assess what types of drugs are being used, why they are being used and the consequences.

This two year research project focuses on non-medical prescription drug (NMPD) use among college students. It involves a collaborative effort among scientists at three SUNY campuses (Buffalo, Binghamton, and Albany) with expertise in public health, wellness education, sociology, and psychology (clinical, social). The two phase research plan includes initial focus groups with students who report use of NMPDs to inform the development of specific measures to assess student perceptions of the types of NMPDs being used, motives for use, and the positive and negative consequences of use. The second phase involves the use of these measures in a web-based survey distributed to 3000 students across the three SUNY campuses. The research is intended to foster larger federally funded future projects targeted toward developing prevention intervention programs to reduce NMPD use on college campuses. Dr. Parks’ co-investigators on the study include Sherri Darrow, University at Buffalo, Student Health & Wellness, Stephen Lisman, SUNY Binghamton and Mark Muraven, SUNY Albany. Funded by a grant of $99,627 from SUNY/RF Collaborative Fund. 2013-2016.

Video Vignettes: Measuring Risk Perception in Alcohol Related Sexual Assaults

Parks | Testa | Dearing | Hequembourg
Researchers are developing short video clips of potential assault scenarios to help women better understand the nonverbal cues that could indicate the risk of sexual assault.

Prior research suggests that a woman’s ability to perceive or interpret cues about a potential sexual assault can be influenced by alcohol consumption and her history of prior assault. In the past, research designed to assess deficits in women’s ability to perceive risk cues for sexual assault have utilized written and audio vignettes. In this study, Dr. Kathleen A. Parks and colleagues are developing video vignettes, that will include nonverbal (e.g. facial expressions) risk cues that can not be presented in the more traditional written and audio vignettes. The hope is that these video vignettes, by including nonverbal, verbal, and environmental risk cues, will provide a more realistic depiction of a sexual assault scenario. The primary goal of developing more realistic scenarios with these imbedded risk cues is to be able to more accurately assess women’s ability to perceive risks for sexual assault during heterosexual drinking situations. Development and validation of this measure will occur through a rigorous, multi-method process involving five small studies. These include the development of the vignette scripts through focus groups, individual, and expert feedback, and validation of the different levels (ambiguous, low and high risk) of risk cues, through presentation to women during sober and moderate alcohol conditions. Future goals include the development of unique prevention programs using the video vignette measure as a training tool for improving women’s risk perception, thereby reducing sexual assault risk. Funded by a grant of $416,063 from NIAAA, 2011-2014.