College Sexual Assault Prevention Programs: Effectiveness of Current Approaches and Suggestions for the Future
College sexual assault poses a serious threat to the health and safety of campus members, as it affects millions of North American college students. The experience of sexual victimization is associated with damaging consequences such as poorer mental and physical health outcomes and worse quality of life. To reduce the high prevalence of campus sexual assault, prevention programs have been introduced to college campuses. Are these programs effective? In this review, 40 recent evaluation studies on 47 intervention programs were analyzed with regards to their program characteristics (i.e., modality, duration, content, facilitator, audience) and program outcomes (i.e., attitudinal, behavioral). The design of the evaluation studies (e.g., no control, quasi experimental, randomized controlled trials) significantly affects the conclusions that can be drawn from each study. Studies with randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provide the most high-quality information on the efficacy of intervention programs. Program effectiveness is discussed in relation to program characteristics and program outcomes. In general, a decrease in rape myth acceptance is consistently found across studies regardless of program characteristics and study design. Interventions with more interactive components are effective in promoting bystander behaviors. Future studies and intervention programs should focus more on gender and/or sexual minority students, given the high prevalence of campus sexual victimization among this population. Studies that begin with first-year students may provide important insights into the long-term effectiveness and additional advantages of sexual assault prevention programs for college students.
Keywords: college students, literature review, sexual assault, prevention, evaluation, effectiveness
- Ariel Yang, Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison