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Maecenas a quameu

The Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) strives to be a comprehensive resource, training and research center dealing with all aspects of violence, abuse and trauma.  IVAT interfaces with Alliant International University’s academic schools and centers, which provide resource support and educational training. Through a focus on collaborations with various partnering organizations, IVAT desires to bridge gaps and help improve current systems of care on a local, national, and global level.

Our History

IVAT was founded in July 2005, when the nationally acclaimed Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute (FVSAI) joined Alliant International University. 

The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute, which is now one of the centers within IVAT, was founded in 1984 in Texas by Robert Geffner, Ph.D. FVSAI was established to address the need for a national resource and training center that focused directly on family violence issues.

In 1991, FVSAI became a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization to deal with sexual assault issues and gradually expanded its scope to include child, teen, and elder maltreatment. In 1999, FVSAI relocated to San Diego, CA, where it became affiliated with the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP), which merged with United States International University, becoming Alliant International University. CSPP is now a school within Alliant International University.


IVAT'S Mission

To improve the quality of life for individuals on local, national and international levels by sharing and disseminating vital information, improving collaborations and networking, conducting research and trainings, assisting with direct professional services, program evaluation, and consulting to promote violence-free living.


IVAT's Vision

Is a world free from violence, abuse, and trauma.

Maecenas a quameu

Bob Geffner

Robert Geffner, Ph.D., ABN, ABPP (view full bio)
Robert Geffner is a licensed clinician (Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist in California and a Licensed Psychologist in Texas) and directed a full-service private practice mental health clinic in East Texas for over 15 years prior to relocating to California 15 years ago.

Dr. Geffner has trained mental health professionals, judges, attorneys, and others for over 28 years.

He is President and Founder of a nonprofit international resource and training center (the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute in Texas and now in California), the Founding President of the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma at Alliant International University, a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at Alliant International University in San Diego, and editor of five professional journals (including the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Journal of Family Violence, and the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma; he is also in the process of becoming the editor of the Journal of Child Custody). He has a Diplomate in Clinical Neuropsychology from the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology, and is Board Certified in Couple and Family Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

He has lectured extensively on the subjects of child abuse, domestic violence, trauma, forensic psychology, child custody, expert witness, and diagnostic assessment. Dr. Geffner is a past president of the American Psychological Association Division of Trauma Psychology, and he is currently co-chair of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan (NPEIV) and president of the American Academy of Couple & Family Psychology. He has served on numerous state, national, and professional committees and task forces concerning family violence, child abuse, interpersonal violence, family law, child custody, and family psychology.

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Sandi Capuano

Sandi Capuano Morrison, M.A.
Executive Director

Sandi Capuano Morrison received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder in Psychology with a focus in Women’s Studies in 1996. Her commitment to domestic violence survivors began after volunteering at a battered women’s shelter as part of a course on Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa, nonviolent resistance, and satyagrapha.

Sandi was a victim advocate at Boulder County Safehouse and then Children’s Counselor at Alternatives to Violence domestic violence shelter before moving to Boston in 1998 and graduating from Boston College with her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology in 2000. It was at BC that Sandi became certified as a Batterer Intervention Program Facilitator and assisted with research on the process and efficacy of offender programs. She became the Program Director of the IMPACT Batterer Intervention Program and ran offender groups for 5 years in Boston suburbs.

After moving to San Diego in 2005, Sandi managed the countywide domestic violence & sexual assault 24-hour hotline & volunteer program and then the city of San Diego’s Rape Crisis Center at the Center for Community Solutions. In that position she was a member of both the San Diego Sexual Assault Response Team and the Sex Offender Management Council and became certified by California’s Office of Emergency Services as a Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault counselor. She was also a Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) volunteer.

Sandi is committed to empowerment-based, survivor-informed programs & processes as well as offender accountability. She has interests in Restorative Justice, Holistic Healing, Cultural Competency, Human Rights and Social Justice.

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Malu

Malou Indon
Administrative Manager
Marketing and Events Coordinator

Malou Indon is the Marketing and Events Coordinator of the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT), in San Diego, CA.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from St. Louis University, Philippines.  Prior to joining IVAT she spent more than 19 years in the pharmaceutical industry.  She started as a Medical Representative before being promoted as a Medical Communication Specialist.  In both positions, she was responsible for the execution of national, regional and local promotional activities specific to the Anti-Asthma and Anti-Infective markets.  She received several recognitions for excellence in sales.

In 1997, Malou was promoted as the Continuing Education Officer for Cardiology, responsible for market shaping and expansion by providing Continuing Medical Education (CME) modules, programs related to Hypertension and smoking cessation.  Her other responsibilities were planning and implementing scientific lectures locally and internationally, product launches and managing key opinion leaders and providing development programs for speakers.  She worked with various medical societies, including WHO Non-Communicable Diseases Department for programs related to hypertension management and Smoking Cessation Campaign in the Philippines.  In 2002 she advanced as a Medical Education and Development Group Manager to handle Continuing Education programs in Diabetes.  She was also designated as the local gatekeeper for the Asia Pacific and International Global Opinion Leaders’ in Diabetes Management Program.

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Aisha Kothawala Aisha Kothawala
Administrative Assistant


is the Administrative Assistant at the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego, CA. She joined IVAT in May of 2012 as the Bookstore Manager, and moved to the Administrative Assistant position in October of 2012. She has  a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Boston University. Prior to IVAT, Aisha spent many years volunteering with various non-profits both in San Diego, CA and Boston, MA.

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Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith
Continuing Education Coordinator & Bookstore Coordinator

Originally from the West Coast, Patricia is glad to be back.  Over sixteen years ago, she joined in the service provider role almost by accident, but realized it was meant to be.  Since coming into this field, she has never looked at a day and thought “why am I here?”  As a survivor of 18 years of domestic violence, she can’t imagine not doing this work.    

Patricia has over 16 years of experience in direct and indirect service in programs regarding violence against women.  She has been a direct service provider, as well as in a supervisory capacity in residential programs, to include emergency shelter and transitional living facilities.  She has extensive experience in handling crisis and has forever been a problem solver, both personally and professionally. 

She has worked serving adult & children’s needs, sexual violence victims, and served in an outreach capacity.  She has been a presenter for a number of years, to diverse audiences on a variety of topics regarding violence against women on a state, as well as national level.  She has presented to professionals such as law enforcement, medical providers, attorneys, and social workers. 
Patricia has worked with incarcerated women and teens, both male and female.  She has started programs from the ground up, such as the Adopt-A-Family for the Holidays program which is in its 14th successful year;  assisted in the first in the Big Bend of Florida area Spanish speaking support group, and International Thanksgiving just to name a few. 

She has served as the Battered /Formerly Battered Women’s Caucus Chair – Florida, and the Women of Color Caucus Chair as an agency Chair in Tallahassee, Florida.
This work is important to me so that my children and grandchildren will have a better chance in having a life without violence.

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Teresa Lass

Teresa Lass
Programs & Volunteers Coordinator


Prior to joining IVAT, Teresa spent more than 20 years at UC San Diego in a variety of business, academic, medical and fundraising departments.  Additionally, Teresa owned and operated a professional administrative services business, supporting local professional associations and non-profit organizations. 
In addition to her professional work, Teresa spent many years volunteering for a variety of grassroots labor and community organizations, local schools and churches.  After the adoption and diagnoses of her young son’s she studied subject matter related to their special needs including bipolar and reactive attachment disorders.  This led to a partnership with her MFT mother in which they developed and led intensive parenting workshops and coaching sessions for families facing difficult behaviors.  She continues to seek out the latest research and developments in mental and emotional health to utilize and share with other families and clients.
Teresa has also gained a great deal of education and training in her hands-on role as wife of 26 years, to high-school sweetheart Todd and as mother to their three children Evan (15), Ethan (13) and Jordan (11).  They are active in their community of Scripps Ranch and enjoy music, sports and spontaneous road trips.

Diana Agostini Picture

Diana Agostini
Special Projects & Development Coordinator

Diana has a Masters’ Degree in International Cooperation focusing on situations of extreme vulnerability and poverty from Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences and Linguistic and Cultural Mediation from Universitá degli Studi di Milano. Before moving from Italy to San Diego in 2012, she worked in Switzerland for a major international NGO in the Fundraising and Communication department deepening her experience in development and grant writing. In 2011 she was Project Developer and Coordinator for 3 educational projects for both children and adults in Pemba, Mozambique.

Diana is extremely passionate and motivated about promoting awareness regarding situations of vulnerability, at both national and international level, and committed to work to find a solution and make a change. Her interests range from cultural studies to human rights, women’s empowerment and pedagogy together with a strong attention to environment and living a healthy life style."

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Dawn Noble Picture

Dawn Noble
Outreach and Publications Coordinator

Dawn joined IVAT in April of 2013. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from California State University Sacramento. 
Prior to IVAT, Dawn spent 4 years working for the Navy as a Public Relations and Event Specialist.
She also has experience working in the Social Service field with non-profits in San Diego.

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Kathryn Herrera

Kathryn Herrera
Conference & Training Assistant

Kathryn is a dual-Chilean citizen from San Diego. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in International Relations: Political Science and Human Rights. In 2010, Kathryn was the recipient of the Marlene King Human Rights Fellowship, allowing her to pilot a higher education program for refugee students with the International Rescue Committee. Most recently, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine from 2011-2013 where she taught English and worked on the Gender and Development Council as the Domestic Violence Subcommittee Chair.

Jennifer Turfler

Jennifer Turfler
Partnership Assistant, NPEIV


Jennifer Turfler earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Linguistics from San Diego State University in 2000; additionally, Jennifer studied at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom where she specialized in British Literature.  Jennifer went on to serve a diverse student population of a high-achieving secondary school as a passionate English instructor for over 12 years. 

As an educator, Jennifer worked to establish an inclusive environment in her classroom and campus-wide; Jennifer led CommUnity/Challenge Day assemblies which taught tolerance, she headed the Human Relations Council campus association, and she piloted a districtwide Humanities course that included curricula representing various cultures that aligned social sciences and historical events to the study of world literature.  Jennifer embraced both Progressive and Humanistic educational philosophies by teaching the whole child. As a result of her belief in this, and with her matured teaching practice, Jennifer desired additional knowledge in counseling theory and practice. 
In 2013, Jennifer returned to graduate school, completing her Master of Arts in Education with a focus on Counseling and Guidance at Point Loma Nazarene University.  Jennifer specialized in the study of safe schools and violence prevention, individual and group counseling for at-risk youth, Intimate Partner Violence among adolescents, and crisis intervention and prevention in relation to student loss and grief recovery.
 
Jennifer is honored to take part in the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence across the Lifespan (NPEIV) by supporting their executive committee and board of directors, coordinating the organization’s summit action teams, researching and disseminating current materials and successful practices, participating in victim advocacy and awareness campaigns, and working alongside graduate and doctorate students. 

Jennifer hopes to continue to grow in her knowledge of this field and to continue to make a difference in the lives of others!

Debra Warner

Zuzana Vasiliauskaitė
IVAT Intern

Zuzana is an international intern from Vilnius, Lithuania.  Zuzana joined the Institute on Violence, Abuse & Trauma (IVAT) at Alliant International University in July 2014, and will work under the different services of the organization as part of her one year program. She has a Master’s degree in Legal Psychology, with a focus in Trauma Psychology.

Before joining IVAT Zuzana volunteered in the Vilnius Women’s House since 2005, and from 2012 to 2014 she worked as a consultant in their Specialized Help Centre, for women experiencing domestic violence.  As a consultant, she provided legal, psychological and other specialized assistance for victims of domestic violence. Furthermore she facilitated trainings for law enforcement officers, social workers, psychologist and other professionals’ in the field of DV/IPV. Zuzana spent the last three years deepening her knowledge in Law, Trauma Psychology and Women’s Human Rights by actively participating in numbers of national (Lithuanian) and international conferences, trainings, and round table meetings. She also trained on Women’s Studies in University of Tampere, Finland and later published a study on Battered Women’s Syndrome based on the works of Dr. Lenore Walker.
Forensic Team Bios


Robert Geffner, Ph.D. is a licensed clinician (Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist in California and a Licensed Psychologist in Texas) and directed a full-service private practice mental health clinic in East Texas for over 15 years prior to relocating to California 15 years ago. Dr. Geffner has trained mental health professionals, judges, attorneys, and others for over 28 years. He is President and Founder of a nonprofit international resource and training center (the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute in Texas and now in California), the Founding President of the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma at Alliant International University, a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at Alliant International University in San Diego, and editor of five professional journals (including the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Journal of Family Violence, and the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma; he is also in the process of becoming the editor of the Journal of Child Custody). He has a Diplomate in Clinical Neuropsychology from the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology, and is Board Certified in Couple and Family Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. He has lectured extensively on the subjects of child abuse, domestic violence, trauma, forensic psychology, child custody, expert witness, and diagnostic assessment. Dr. Geffner is a past president of the American Psychological Association Division of Trauma Psychology, and he is currently co-chair of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan (NPEIV) and president of the American Academy of Couple & Family Psychology.  He has served on numerous state, national, and professional committees and task forces concerning family violence, child abuse, interpersonal violence, family law, child custody, and family psychology.

Stefanie Platt, Psy.D, graduated from Alliant International University in San Francisco in June 2012 with a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology. In 2010, Dr. Platt was selected and trained in Forensic Psychology under South Africa's Investigative Psychology Unit.  Previously, Dr. Platt graduated Summa Cum Laude from Pepperdine University with a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology in 2007.  While working on her graduate degree, Dr. Platt completed practicum experiences centered on offering individual, group, and couples therapy to adults with severe mental illness paroled from a correctional facility, completing court-ordered assessments for families involved with Child Protective Services, and providing individual therapy for students at a local high school.  In conjunction with these practica, Dr. Platt has worked in an eating disorder facility, a nursing home, and a dual-diagnosis adolescent residential treatment home.  She has also provided behavioral therapy for children with developmental disabilities, engaged in therapeutic play with children hospitalized with terminal illnesses, provided psychoeducation for homeless individuals, worked on a crisis hotline, and accompanied sexual assault survivors during forensic examinations.  Dr. Platt has also spent time providing art therapy for children in the Dominican Republic, counseling HIV positive orphans in Kenya, and offering recreational therapy for individuals with neuromuscular disorders in Australia.  She completed her doctoral internship training at Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island where she developed a peer support program and conducted neuropsychological and psychological testing, individual therapy, and group therapy for incarcerated men. In addition to conducting her work in English, Dr. Platt has also provided mental status evaluations, intakes, therapy, and medication evaluations in Spanish.  Additionally, she has conducted research on the interface of childhood maltreatment and juvenile delinquency and assisted in research projects pertaining to developmental, social, and health psychology.  Dr. Platt has further completed specialized training in disaster relief and sexual assault counseling.  Dr. Platt joined IVAT and the forensic consulting team at FVSAI in July 2012 and has continued with the agency working as the Training Director and a Forensic Psychologist in September, 2013.  Currently, Dr. Platt serves as the Clinical Director for the Professional Clinical and Forensic Department at IVAT. In her spare time, Dr. Platt is on the editorial board for the Journal of Child Custody and works as an Assistant Editor for the following journals: Journal of Child Sexual Abuse; Journal of Aggression; Maltreatment, & Trauma; Journal of Family Violence; and the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma.  Additionally, Dr. Platt is a Professor at Alliant International University.

Brianna Pepiton, Psy.D. graduated from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University (AIU) with a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology, and an emphasis in forensics.  She became licensed as a clinical psychologist in December of 2009.  Dr. Pepiton earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 2004.  She is currently in her 6th year of providing individual, group and family therapy to severally mentally ill adults who have a dual diagnosis.  Dr. Pepiton has worked in the forensic field since 2006 and became a certified custody evaluator in 2008.  Her forensic experience includes working at juvenile hall, providing court-ordered re-unification therapy, monitoring supervised visits between a parent and child(ren), conducting custody evaluations and critiquing the custody evaluations conducted by others.  Dr. Pepiton has also worked as a Child Development Counselor at the San Diego Center for Children, providing for children with severe emotional problems.  In addition to working as the Supervising Psychologist at IVAT, Dr. Pepiton currently works as the staff psychologist at Alpine Special Treatment Centers, and provides services to transitional aged youth as well as adults in a locked facility.  Dr. Pepiton joined the forensic consulting team at the FVSAI, functioning under the supervision of Dr. Geffner as a postdoctoral fellow, in September of 2008, and has continued with the agency as the Supervising Psychologist beginning in June of 2010. 

Juhayna Ajami, Psy.D., graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, DC in June 2013 with a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. While working on her graduate degree, Dr. Ajami completed practicum experiences centered on providing individual therapy to adults and adolescents involved with the legal system, as well as completing neuropsychological assessments for inpatient committed adults, court-ordered psychoeducational assessments for juveniles, psychological evaluations to help determine eligibility for disability, and psychological and neuropsychological assessments for asylum seekers and survivors of torture. In conjunction with these practica, Dr. Ajami has worked in a residential living facility for seniors, where she co-led a diversity workshop and support group. She has also co-led a support group for Arab-American women on the topic of identity. She completed her predoctoral internship training at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC where she provided a variety of psychological services for individuals who have severe and persistent mental illness. She co-facilitated a Sex Offender Relapse Prevention group for male sex offenders who were found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. In addition, she co-facilitated a Social Skills group and an all female Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills group. In addition, Dr. Ajami completed psychological and neuropsychological assessments for pre- and post-trial adults and conducted risk assessments to determine level of risk for violence and reoffending upon discharge from the hospital. Furthermore, she provided long and short-term psychotherapy with inpatient and outpatient individuals. In addition to conducting her work in English, Dr. Ajami has also provided mental status evaluations, intakes, and psychological evaluations in Arabic. Additionally, she has conducted research on psychotherapy with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest. She has also served as a campus representative for the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues and completed an Adult Psychoanalytic Fellowship Program at the Baltimore Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. Dr. Ajami joined IVAT and the forensic consulting team at FVSAI in July 2013, functioning under the supervision of Drs. Geffner and Warner as a postdoctoral fellow in forensic and clinical psychology.

Alexandra Assalley, B.A., is a fourth-year doctoral student (Psy.D) of Clinical Forensic Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Los Angeles campus. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, with a minor in economics from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to her graduate training, she worked at the Office of the State Appellate Defender – Capital Trial Assistance Unit in Chicago, Illinois. During her practicum training, Ms. Assalley worked for W. King Health Care Group: CARES program in which she provided short-term, long-term, geriatric psychotherapy, and crisis intervention services to individuals with chronic pain, HIV, Hepatitis C, substance abuse/dependency, and moderate to severe mental illness. In addition to providing individual psychotherapy, Ms. Assalley also assisted with the program development and evaluation for this site. Similarly, Ms. Assalley completed practicum training at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology Counseling Center in Irvine, California, where she provided short-term and long-term individual, couples, family therapy, and provided crisis intervention services. Ms. Assalley has conducted doctoral level research examining the likelihood of engaging in hypersexual behaviors by adult males with a self-reported history of alcohol abuse and/or dependency. She has also conducted doctoral level research examining adolescent self-esteem as it relates to music therapy and performance. Currently, Ms. Assalley is part of the clinical and forensic team at IVAT and FVSAI where she will be completing her pre-doctoral internship under the supervision of Drs. Geffner, and Platt.

Morgan Shaw, M.A. is a fourth-year doctoral student (Psy.D.) of Clinical Forensic Psychology at the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University. She earned her Master of Arts degree at this same university in 2012. Prior to that, Ms. Shaw earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, at Santa Barbara. Ms. Shaw’s graduate training includes providing individual and group psychotherapy to a severely mentally ill inpatient population who had been committed under various criminal and civil codes. Further graduate experience includes conducting comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations, as well as providing behavioral medicine evaluations to a chronic pain population. Ms. Shaw has further experience in biofeedback training, applied behavior analysis, and rape crisis training. Ms. Shaw continues to conduct research in the area of juvenile violence risk assessments, including her dissertation research, which examines the use of violence risk assessments by juvenile probation officers. Currently, Ms. Shaw is part of the clinical and forensic team at IVAT and FVSAI where she will be completing a pre-doctoral internship under the supervision of Drs. Geffner and Platt.

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