Thursday, January 12, 2023
Alhambra, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Background and purpose: Prosocial bystander behaviors are actions individuals can take to prevent or limit harm and show promising evidence for reducing harm among college students. Although bystander intervention has become increasingly popular in the field of interpersonal violence prevention, measuring bystander behaviors is complicated due to the range of opportunities in which an individual could intervene, and the range of intervention behaviors a person can use. Further, measurement of bystander behaviors for interpersonal violence is typically limited to the use of a few validated scales, which may have limited applicability for designing and evaluating interventions. By using student voice to identify unique intervention opportunities and strategies, we hope to move beyond these limitations and develop comprehensive measures of bystander opportunity and actions that lead to more effective programs and more rigorous evaluations. Methods: This study utilized data collected from 15 universities that participated in the Multi-college Bystander Efficacy Evaluation. Students from each university were asked to report behaviors they utilized in response to witnessing one of five concerning situations, with the option to write in additional behaviors if the response options did not adequately describe their actions (i.e., “I took action in another way [please describe]”). Additionally, students were asked to indicate if they witnessed any other concerning situations and, if so, to describe the situation. A total of 5,154 students provided responses to the open-ended prompts, and these data were analyzed via content analysis to identify additional opportunities and actions in bystander scenarios. Results: Preliminary exploration of open-ended responses suggests themes related to opportunity (exposure to other concerning situations) which include: excessive drunkenness and related risky behaviors, stalking and technology-facilitated abuse, public fights between strangers, suicidal ideation and self-injurious behaviors, gun violence, walking alone at night, muggings and robberies, and racist events and related protests. Preliminary themes related to bystander actions that can be utilized include: keeping an eye on friends, calling rides for friends, getting friends home safely, verbally checking in on friends, obtaining medical care, throwing out contaminated drinks, comforting victims, reporting inappropriate social media posts, and reporting to university personnel. Conclusions and implications: Student voice and perspective is essential to designing realistic and relevant measures of bystander intervention. Themes from this analysis suggest a need to consider the ways that interpersonal violence intersects with other forms of harm (alcohol, public violence, racism, suicide) when considering opportunities for bystander behaviors. Additional themes related to the types of bystander behaviors a person can use were revealed, emphasizing the importance that friendship and personal relationship play in bystander behaviors. Together, these findings provide concrete suggestions for how measurement of bystander intervention opportunity and behaviors can be expanded, helping advance our understanding of this complex phenomenon.