"[We Need] A Complete Change of Culture": Bystander Intervention Programming and Campus Safety

Mauer, Victoria, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

Despite ongoing efforts to decrease the occurrence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on college campuses, prevalence rates have remained steady for decades. Experiences of SGBV victimization can negatively impact students’ physical and psychological outcomes, as well as their academic success. In 2013, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act mandated that federally funded institutions of higher education provide ongoing bystander intervention programming to university communities as a means to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. While extensive quantitative research to assess the effectiveness of such programming exists, scholars recommend using qualitative research methods to obtain clearer, more nuanced understandings of students’ motivations for and difficulties in intervening as bystanders. The present study used both quantitative and qualitative research methods to assess students’ perceptions of bystander intervention programming, including whether they feel it impacts their feelings of campus safety, and how their identities influence decisions to intervene. The findings show that although students feel that bystander intervention programming provides them useful tools to intervene, they also feel that it does not prepare them sufficiently to intervene, particularly in potentially violent situations in the context of relationships. Consistent with previous research, a number of identity factors were found to influence bystander outcomes. Female students especially, felt that bystander intervention did not impact their feelings of safety on campus. Finally, students highlighted the positive impact community norms can have on college campuses and, consistent with calls by scholars, emphasize the need for prevention programs to provide proactive, ecological, and comprehensive approaches to preventing SGBV that foster a culture of intervening.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Bystander Intervention, Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, Campus Safety, Sexual Violence Prevention
Sponsoring Agency:
Institute of Education Sciences

The research was supported, in part, by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant #R305B140026 to the Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, support for compensation of research participants and focus group facilitators were made possible through fellowship funding provided by the Power, Violence, Inequality Collective of the University of Virginia.

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