Decreasing Misperceptions of Sexual Violence to Increase Bystander Intervention: A Social Norms Intervention
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Sexual violence (SV) on college campuses is a significant and enduring problem. Campus administrators, advocates, family members, students, and researchers have examined the factors that enable SV and have developed university-based pilot programs to reduce SV rates. This study contributes to existing SV intervention literature by examining the impact of a social norms intervention, delivered by university peers, on SV attitudes, knowledge, bystander involvement, and behavior change on university men living in fraternity communities. Fraternity units were randomly assigned to an existing student-led forty-five minute SV awareness training (Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team, SWAT), to SWAT plus, which had additional time devoted to SV social norms and bystander intervention, and to a wait-list control. Participants included male members (N = 324) of nine fraternities at a large public university. Four outcomes were examined: SV knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and social norms among male fraternity members. Measurements were taken at pretest, two-week posttest, and four-month follow-up. Data were analyzed using Poisson regression, Hierarchical Linear Modeling, and repeated measures ANOVA. Overall, results indicated mixed results for the effectiveness of SWAT and SWAT plus compared to the control group. There was evidence that both interventions, when analyzed together and compared to the control group, were effective at decreasing rape myth acceptance. When analyzed separately, both SWAT and SWAT plus were effective at increasing the number of helpful bystander behaviors participants could list and increasing bystander self-efficacy. The SWAT plus intervention appeared to be more effective at increasing actual bystander intervention behavior. The SWAT intervention appeared to be more effective at increasing intention to help. There were also mixed results for the effectiveness at posttest and follow-up. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.