Abstract: Engaging Bystanders in Rape Prevention (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

11987 Engaging Bystanders in Rape Prevention

Friday, January 15, 2010: 9:00 AM
Pacific Concourse M (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Sarah McMahon, PhD , Rutgers University, Associate Director/Instructor, New Brunswick, NJ
Judy L. Postmus, PhD , Rutgers University, Assistant Professor, New Brunswick, NJ
Background and Purpose: Recently, there have been greater efforts focusing on primary prevention in rape prevention programs. One promising strategy is bystander intervention, which suggests that all community members have a responsibility to intervene when faced with overt and covert sexual violence situations. In this study, we surveyed a sample of incoming college students to determine their attitudes about and willingness to engage in various bystander behaviors.

Methods: This exploratory study was conducted with a convenience sample of 951 undergraduate students attending new student orientation at a large, northeastern public university. We used the Bystander Attitude Scale, Revised (BAS-R) and the Bystander Behavior Scale, Revised (BBS-R), revising Banyard, Plante, and Moynihan's (2004) original scales as well as a modified Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Data were entered using SPSS 16.0 and were triple spot-checked for accuracy and consistency. Missing Value Analysis was conducted to determine if missing data were random or associated with any particular sensitive questions. The results of Little's MCAR test revealed no significant pattern to the missing data.

Data analyses included descriptive tests, t-tests, and ANOVAs. For the BAS-R, a composite score was created by adding together all of the Likert scale items for a total score, with a higher score indicating a greater willingness to participate in positive bystander behaviors. For the BBS-R, a composite score was also created with a high score indicating greater bystander behavior. The Cronbach's alpha was 0.86 for the BAS-R and the reliability for the BBS-R was lower at 0.69.

Results: Students were more likely to intervene with overt rather than covert forms of sexual violence. Females, those not intending to pledge a fraternity/sorority, and those who were not high school athletes were significantly more willing to intervene with sexual violence. Groups statistically engaged in positive bystander behaviors included females and those who knew someone who was sexually assaulted. Those students who were less accepting of rape myths had more positive bystander attitudes (r = -0.34, p<.01) and reported a greater number of bystander behaviors (r = -0.14, p<.01).

Conclusions and Implications: The results of the study suggest that incoming college students are more informed about the more overt forms of sexual violence. The findings that gender (male) and identification with “at risk” groups including fraternities and athletic teams result in a lower likelihood to intervene as bystanders suggest the need for further investigation and work with these groups. The scales we revised hold promise for social workers in rape prevention programs who want to assess their effectiveness in addressing the primary prevention of rape. Our study also suggests that they include education on the more covert forms of sexual violence as well as providing skill development on how to intervene as effective bystanders.