hero image
Amy Bonomi - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Amy Bonomi Amy Bonomi

Chair and Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies | Michigan State University


Dr. Bonomi’s research focuses on the health impacts, contexts for, and dynamics of intimate partner violence and sexual violence






What Fifty Shades of Grey Readers Have In Common



Dr. Amy E. Bonomi is Professor and Chair of the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Michigan State University. Dr. Bonomi’s research focuses on the health impacts, contexts for, and dynamics of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. She is conducting studies on campus sexual assault, and developing intervention tools to assist college students in decoding abuse, power, control and harm in relationships. In recognition of the impact of Dr. Bonomi’s research in violence prevention, in 2011, she was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Award from The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology. Dr. Bonomi is an associate editor at the Journal of Women’s Health and writes a violence prevention blog for the Huffington Post.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (4)

Domestic Violence

Partner Violence

Intimacy Dynamics

Sexual Violence

Education (2)

University of Washington: Ph.D., Health Services

Loyola University: B.S., Applied Psychology

Affiliations (6)

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Institute of Justice
  • Center for Innovation and Research
  • Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence
  • MSU Sexual Violence Advisory Committee
  • Journal of Women's Health

News (5)

One More (Feminist) Wonder About ‘Wonder Woman’: It Passes The Abuse Litmus Test

Huffington Post  online


Guest blog post We live in an era marked by popular films that normalize violence against women, such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Twilight.” In these films, men use sexual coercion and other abuse strategies (e.g., name-calling, humiliation, and stalking) to control and harm women. Is this a problem? Sure it is, when you consider that popular culture sets an important underlying context for attitudes and behaviors. And when national research shows that violence affects at least one in four women across their lifetime.

view more

Women recognize abuse in "Fifty Shades" film

MSU Today  


“The encouraging news is that these young women are identifying aspects of an unhealthy relationship between Christian and Anastasia,” said lead author Amy Bonomi, chairperson and professor of MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “They were keenly aware of the different aspects of abuse in the relationship and told us in great detail the danger the abuse poses for Anastasia.”...

view more

The foremost academic expert on 'Fifty Shades of Grey' tells us why the movie is truly horrible

Business Insider  


Amy Bonomi, a public health researcher and the chair of the human development and family studies department at Michigan State University, has taken several people to see the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" — but she doesn't exactly recommend it. "It's horrible," she says. Bonomi's biggest problem with the movie is not that it is overwrought or poorly written, but that it popularizes a dangerous relationship, misrepresenting abuse as consensual bondage play or kink...

view more

"Fifty Shades" research hits big in 2014

MSU Today  


Much like the controversial book it explores, an MSU scholar’s investigation into the potential harmful effects of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a huge hit. Amy Bonomi’s two studies, which appeared in the Journal of Women’s Health, were both among the 100 most-read articles of 2014 in the extensive academic library of Mary Ann Liebert Inc., publishers. The company published 85 journals with a total of 9,067 articles last year. That means Bonomi’s two papers were in the top 11 percent of the most-read articles...

view more

Reading "Fifty Shades" linked to unhealthy behaviors

MSU Today  


All are known risks associated with being in an abusive relationship, much like the lead character, Anastasia, is in “Fifty Shades,” said Amy Bonomi, the study’s lead investigator. And while the study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books, it’s a potential problem either way, she said. “If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading ‘Fifty Shades’ might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma,” said Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies...

view more

Journal Articles (11)

Rethinking Campus Sexual Assault: We must Be Leaders in Anti-Bias Practices, Civil Rights and Human Rights

Journal of Family Violence

2018 During an era when campuses nationwide are increasingly in the spotlight for a range of sexual assault infractions, Rothman proposes four groundbreaking thought experiments that challenge the status quo in campus-based prevention programming and call for us to do better. Namely, Rothman’s thought experiments—which suggest that campuses 1) invest in fighting structural oppression at the societal level, 2) direct their social norming work at the macro level, 3) educate preventionists in consent and pleasure related to kink, anal sex and group sex, and 4) enact education and counseling for sexual violence perpetrators—provide us with fresh opportunities to examine our willingness and capacity to change and to become even more impactful leaders in practices to reduce sexual violence.

view more

Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence in College Women with a Mental Health and/or Behavior Disability

Journal of Womens Health

2018 We address questions about (1) how college women with a disability experience sexual violence (SV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) across partners, including disability-specific abuse and (2) how SV/IPV impacts psychological, behavioral, physical, and academic life domains.

view more

Alcohol Use, Mental Health Disability, and Violence Victimization in College Women: Exploring Connections

Violence Against Women

2018 The present study is an analysis of in-depth interviews with college women reporting a mental health disability and at least one experience of intimate partner violence (IPV) or sexual violence (SV) to elucidate how alcohol use is associated with both violence victimization and mental health symptoms. Our findings underscore salient alcohol-related themes in college women with histories of IPV/SV and mental health disability: alcohol use in their family of origin and/or with intimate partners, partying and heavy drinking as a normal college social context, abusive partners and SV perpetrators using alcohol as a mechanism for control and targeted rape, and worsening mental health symptoms after violence exposure, which prompted alcohol use to cope and was associated with vulnerability to more violence.

view more

Inside MSU: Taking risks to improve climate

Journal of American College Health


view more

Jail Calls: What Do Kids Have to Do with It?

Journal of Family Violence

2017 For many domestic violence victims, witness tampering continues throughout an abuser’s detention while awaiting court appearance and sentencing, often via phone calls made from jail. A common question we are asked when leading an investigation and providing expert testimony is how abusers involve their children (directly or indirectly) during jail calls. In this commentary, we use three case examples to illustrate how abusers involve their children (directly or indirectly) to further manipulate and tamper with their victim.

view more

Sexist attitudes among emerging adult women readers of Fifty Shades fiction

Archives of Sexual Behavior

2017 Stereotypical sexist representations of men and women in popular culture reinforce rigid views of masculinity (e.g., males as being strong, in control, masterful, and aggressive) and femininity (e.g., women as being fragile and weak, unassertive, peaceful, irrational, and driven by emotions). The present study examined associations between the fictional series Fifty Shades—one popular culture mechanism that includes pervasive traditional gender role representations—and underlying sexist beliefs among a sample of 715 women ages 18–24 years. Analyses revealed associations between Fifty Shades readership and sexism, as measured through the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory. Namely women who reported reading Fifty Shades had higher levels of ambivalent, benevolent, and hostile sexism. Further, those who interpreted Fifty Shades as “romantic” had higher levels of ambivalent and benevolent sexism. Our findings support prior empirical studies noting associations between interacting with aspects of popular culture, such as television and video games, and individual beliefs and behaviors.

view more

Young women's perceptions of the relationship in Fifty Shades of Grey

Journal of Women's Health

2016 Millions of women are interacting with Fifty Shades of Grey—a best-selling novel and film. Yet, to date, no social science study has been undertaken to examine women's perceptions of the Fifty Shades relationship narrative in its film adaptation—what they deem appealing, what they deem unappealing, and what they would welcome or resist in their own relationship. In the present study, we used focus groups to examine women's perceptions of the relationship patterns in the Fifty Shades of Grey film.

view more

Fiction or not? Fifty Shades is associated with health risks in adolescent and young adult females

Journal of Women's Health

2014 No prior study has empirically characterized the association between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Fifty Shades—a blockbuster fiction series—depicts pervasive violence against women, perpetuating a broader social narrative that normalizes these types of risks and behaviors in women's lives. The present study characterized the association between health risks in women who read and did not read Fifty Shades; while our cross-sectional study design precluded causal determinations, an empirical representation of the health risks in women consuming the problematic messages in Fifty Shades is made.

view more

Associations between psychological, physical, and sexual intimate partner violence and health outcomes among women veteran VA patients

Journal Social Work in Mental Health

2014 Women veterans experience high rates of lifetime intimate partner violence (IPV) and suffer a variety of trauma-related health conditions. The purpose of this study was to identify health status and health risk behaviors associated with experiences of psychological, physical, or sexual IPV among women veterans receiving care at a Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center. We conducted surveys with 249 women veteran patients and examined health factors associated with each form of violence. Sexual IPV victimization had the most pronounced associations with adverse health. In multivariate analysis, controlling for age, race, and income, women veterans who experienced sexual violence victimization were close to or more than three times as likely as those who experienced no IPV to report poor or fair overall health, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, cigarette smoking, and problem drinking. Those who reported psychological violence only (without physical or sexual violence) also reported greater odds of self-rated poor or fair health. These findings are consistent with findings from studies with non-veteran populations and serve to further identify the unique contributions of sexual IPV to health outcomes. The integrated VA health care system offers opportunities for IPV identification and response including a coordinated team-based care model with social work integrated within primary care.

view more

Intimate partner violence and neighborhood income

Violence Against Women

2014 This investigation used a longitudinal design to examine the relationship between neighborhood-level income, individual-level predictors, and police-reported intimate partner violence in 5,994 urban couples followed over 2 years. At the baseline abuse incident, intimate partner violence rates were highest in the poorest neighborhoods (13.8 per 1,000 women in the lowest income quartile, followed by 12.1, 8.2, and 5.0 in the respective higher income quartiles). However, in the longitudinal analysis, weapon use at the baseline abuse event was a much stronger predictor of repeat abuse (incident rate ratios ranging from 1.72 for physical abuse to 1.83 for non-physical abuse) than neighborhood income.

view more

“Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey

Journal of Women's Health

2013 While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions—including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music—create the context to support such violence. Fifty Shades of Grey, a best-selling novel, depicts a “romantic” and “erotic” relationship involving 28-year-old megamillionaire, Christian Grey, and a 22-year-old college student, Anastasia Steele. We argue that the relationship is characterized by IPV, which is harmful to Anastasia.

view more