January 2021 Alumna Spotlight

Melissa Petrangelo Scaia

Melissa Petrangelo Scaia ’96

Major at CSB: Political science
First-year residence hall: Margretta
Favorite class: Any class with Professor Phil Kronebusch
Favorite Bennie memory: I loved debate in political science classes and living on campus with all women. I also loved the concerts on campus and J-Term classes.

Standing Against Domestic Violence

“My time at CSB prepared me for looking at global issues and analyzing them and their human impact,” says Melissa Petrangelo Scaia ’96. And the global issue that has driven her career is domestic violence.

After graduating from Saint Ben’s, Melissa went on to Hamline University to pursue her master’s (writing her thesis on the effects of domestic violence on children) and her doctorate (writing her dissertation proposal to address supervised visitation, children and domestic violence).

Today she is an international expert on violence against women and serves as the director of international training at Global Rights for Women. In January 2019, she piloted an international research project to determine if it is viable to work with domestic violence offenders using videoconference software such as Zoom.

“We did that study for one year and then COVID-19 happened,” she says. “We never knew when we started this research how important it would be during COVID-19.”

The findings of that report proved crucial in helping domestic violence offender programs to continue during the global pandemic. “During COVID-19, domestic violence murder and incidents have dramatically increased around the world,” Melissa continues. “Here in the United States, calls to prevention hotlines have increased by 30%.”

Before her role at Global Rights for Women, Melissa served 17 years as director of a domestic violence shelter and also worked as director for the iconic Duluth Model domestic violence prevention program. The Duluth Model was an innovative development in its multi-disciplinary approach. According to the Duluth Abuse Intervention Programs website, communities employing the Duluth Model have “shared policies and procedures for holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe across all agencies in the criminal and civil justice systems from 911 to the courts.”

Melissa is proud of her Bennie roots, and this fall she was able to pay that forward a bit by welcoming a Bennie intern into her research. “Hannah Sobhani (’22, political science major from Burnsville, Minnesota) was critical in our research on how domestic violence offender programs are using videoconference technology,” she says.

Melissa's story was featured in the College of Saint Benedict Winter 2020 Magazine