Sexual assault is a significant problem among adolescents and college students in the U.S. One promising strategy for preventing sexual assault is the implementation of bystander programs, which encourage young people to intervene when witnessing incidents or warning signs of sexual assault.
The evidence base for the effectiveness of bystander programs appears to be promising, but we know little about which programs are most effective in preventing sexual assault. This is a significant oversight, as bystander programs vary in content, particularly in their gendered framing of sexual assault. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we synthesized high-quality research examining the effects of bystander programs on (1) bystander intervention and (2) self-reported perpetration of sexual assault. Paying special attention to a gendered approach as a moderator of program effects, we synthesized data from 14 independent studies (N = 7881). Twelve studies were randomized controlled trials and two used high-quality quasi-experimental designs. Findings indicated that bystander programs have a significant, desirable effect on bystander intervention, but no significant effect on sexual assault perpetration.
Despite calls for sex-segregated implementation of sexual assault programs, we found no evidence that method of implementation (i.e., individual, single-sex group, mixed-sex group) moderated the effect of bystander programs on bystander intervention. Additionally, we found no evidence that gendered framing of sexual assault (i.e., portraying sexual assault as a gender-neutral problem or a gendered problem overwhelmingly affecting young women) moderated the effect of bystander programs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
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