Dr. Nicole Fava is an assistant professor at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University. Her research bridges the childhood adversity and sexuality fields by prioritizing trauma-informed care and resilience-based sexual health promotion for vulnerable youth with histories of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). She was among the first to call for trauma-informed sexuality education to support the sexual health of all youth and to examine positive sexual outcomes and sexual health among youth with maltreatment histories. Fava has examined sexual agency of girls in the child welfare system, impact of social context on developing sexuality, safe sexual behaviors as normative and growth-promoting experiences, and trajectories of sexual health among people with histories of maltreatment, and sexual well-being among Latina farmworkers with histories of sexual trauma.
Dr. Fava’s most recent project, with funding from the NIH and RCMI at FIU, addressed a major gap in knowledge around the sexual health of racial and ethnic minority youth with histories of ACEs. This work is imperative as these youth are over-represented in adverse health outcomes research, but under-represented in examinations of healthy sexuality, leading to potentially inaccurate and over-simplified associations related to their health and well-being. The objective of this research was to develop a universal multidimensional trauma-informed measure of sexual health that would not retraumatize youth with histories of adversity. Guided by trauma-informed principles of trustworthiness and transparency, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, voice, and choice, and cultural issues, this research departs from a risk-focused framework of sexuality, embraces a comprehensive definition of sexual health, employs trauma-informed principles across all levels of the research process, and focuses on Black and Latinx girls and boys who have experienced childhood adversity. Currently, no trauma-informed measure of sexual health exists. Researchers and clinicians will benefit from a valid and high-utility measure allowing them to more fully understand a critical aspect of development and highlight dimensions of sexual health to target with supportive interventions for individuals from diverse backgrounds.
With additional funding from The Children’s Trust, Dr. Fava leads a project providing trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for youth and families in Miami-Dade, and with funding from the Department of Justice in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Police Department and International Rescue Committee, Dr. Fava is evaluating work being done to address the issue of human trafficking in Miami-Dade.
Overall, Dr. Fava is especially interested in understanding multilevel factors impacting healthy development to inform effective and holistic interventions. She has a strong interdisciplinary background of training in research approaches, methods, and design, as well as training in trauma-specific interventions and holistic evidence-based intervention models.
Dr. Fava joined FIU Stempel College and the Center for Children and Families in 2015. She earned her PhD and MSW from the School of Social Work, University at Buffalo, New York.