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Practice Profile

Bystander Education Programs for Sexual Assault Prevention on College Campuses

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Bystander Efficacy
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Rape Supportive Attitudes (Rape Myths)
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Intent to Help
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Actual Helping Behavior

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Bystander education programs for sexual assault prevention on college campuses target would-be bystanders (i.e., witnesses) of sexual assault rather than victims or perpetrators. These programs are designed to decrease the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses by educating participants about the occurrence of sexual assault, as well as promoting prosocial attitudes and the willingness to intervene in risky situations. Additionally, these programs may mobilize a community to recognize their responsibility in promoting safety. While bystander education programs may differ from one another, they share common components and a common aim to reduce sexual assault.

Practice Components/Target Population
In all programs, bystanders are defined as third-party witnesses and are targeted for participation because they could be potential allies or helpers to those being sexually assaulted. Although participants may include both men and women, the programs typically involve single-sex groups.

Overall, these programs focus on three main aspects: 1) teaching participants about sexual assault to make them aware of risky situations, 2) empowering participants so they feel like they can help others, and 3) providing participants with skills to promote safety throughout their community. The program is facilitated by trained peers who not only serve as positive role models, but also educate participants about the prevalence of sexual assault on their campuses, indicators of risky situations, how they can intervene in a specific situation, and how they can promote safety more generally. In cases where participants overhear sexually degrading comments—or are approached by a victim who shares such information—they are taught how to support the victim.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Bystander Efficacy
Aggregating the results from six studies, Katz and Moore (2013) found a statistically significant overall mean effect size of 0.486 for bystander efficacy. This result suggests that participants in bystander education programs felt more confident in their ability to intervene in a sexual assault situation than those who did not participate in such programs.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Rape Supportive Attitudes (Rape Myths)
Katz and Moore (2013) examined the results from 11 studies and found that bystander education programs reduced rape-supportive attitudes. Specifically, the authors found a small, yet statistically significant mean effect size of -0.276, suggesting that participants in bystander education programs were less likely to hold rape-supportive attitudes than participants in the comparison conditions.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Intent to Help
Aggregating the results from five studies, Katz and Moore (2013) found a statistically significant impact of bystander education programs on participants’ intentions to help as bystanders in sexual assault situations. Specifically, the overall mean effect size was 0.579, showing that participants in bystander education programs had higher intentions of helping as a bystander than individuals in the comparison condition.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Actual Helping Behavior
Examining the results from three studies, Katz and Moore (2013) found that bystander education programs had a small, yet statistically significant impact on actual bystander helping behavior. Specifically, the authors found a statistically significant mean effect size of 0.227, suggesting that participants in bystander education programs were more likely to exhibit bystander helping behavior than those in the comparison condition.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11997 - 2011122926

Meta-Analysis 1
Katz and Moore (2013) evaluated the effectiveness of bystander education programs on reducing sexual assault on college campuses. The meta-analysis was restricted to include bystander programs on college campuses that recruited individuals by approaching them as allies in the prevention of sexual assault. Moreover, at least some part of the program had to educate participants on how to help reduce others’ risk of sexual assault and/or train participants on how to support a victim of sexual assault. To identify studies, specific keywords related to sexual assault prevention were used to search bibliographic databases. Studies were also located through internet searches and contacting authors for copies of unpublished studies or studies that were not yet available online. Relevant journals in community psychology, prevention, and interpersonal violence were also searched, and bibliographies of studies were screened to locate other relevant studies.

To be eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis, the study had to include North American college students who attended a bystander education program for sexual assault prevention. The study also had to provide quantitative data on the relevant outcomes, which included bystander efficacy, rape-supportive attitudes, intent to help, rape proclivity, bystander helping behaviors, and perpetration behaviors. Bystander efficacy was related to how competent individuals felt in responding to sexual assault risk. Rape-supportive attitudes focused on acceptance of rape myths (for example, agreement with statements like “if a woman doesn’t physically fight back, you can’t really say that it was rape”). Intent to help measured how likely an individual would be to help in a sexual assault situation. Bystander helping behavior measured actual instances of engaging in bystander helping behavior since the beginning of the program. Data on these outcome variables had to be gathered at pretest and posttest, and compared with a comparison or control group that did not receive the bystander education program.

The search yielded 41 potential studies. Of these 41 studies, 12 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. The 12 studies included 10 that used random assignment and 2 that used a quasi-experimental design, and provided 32 effect sizes. The studies were conducted between 1997 and 2011 and had a total sample size of 2,926 participants. The total sample size comprised 1,474 treatment participants (i.e., those in bystander education programs) and 1,474 comparison/control individuals. The average age of participants was approximately 19, and about 66.7 percent of participants were men. All education programs were conducted in same-sex groups, and, on average, the programs lasted 140 minutes.

To analyze the impact of bystander education programs on sexual assault prevention, a random effects model was used. Each study outcome was weighted and then combined to create a summary effect size, also known as the standardized mean difference.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Katz, Jennifer, and Jessica Moore. 2013. “Bystander Education Training for Campus Sexual Assault Prevention: An Initial Meta-Analysis.” Violence and Victims 28(6):1054–1067.
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Related Programs

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated programs that are related to this practice:

Bringing in the Bystander Promising - One study
The goal of the program is to increase bystander awareness of sexual and intimate partner violence and expand an individual’s sense of responsibility to help prevent and intervene in instances of sexual and intimate partner violence. The program was rated Promising. The program improved knowledge of rape myth acceptance, and bystander attitude, behavior, and efficacy among program participants, compared with nonparticipants.

The Women’s Program Promising - One study
This is a sexual assault risk-reduction program that is designed to teach college women bystanders about sexual assault, characteristics of male perpetrators, and how to intervene. This program is rated Promising. Confidence in the ability and willingness to intervene increased significantly for the experimental group. However, acceptance of common “rape myths” did not differ between the control and experimental groups.

Green Dot Intervention Program Promising - One study
This program is designed to increase self-reported, active-bystander behaviors and reduce dating and sexual violence on college campuses. College students are trained to assess situations, identify potential risks for violence, and safely intervene. The program is rated Promising. The findings showed that students receiving components of the Green Dot program had significantly more observed and self-reported active-bystander behaviors than students who received no intervention.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 18 - 21

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, Other, White

Settings: Campus

Practice Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Situational Crime Prevention, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons

Researcher:
Jennifer Katz
Professor of Psychology
SUNY College at Geneseo
Phone: 585.245.5218
Email