Thursday, October 29, 2015

When You Say "NO," It Means NO


by Selin Tekin, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Sexual assault and rape are two of the vital issues on college campuses and many of them are unreported. It is reported that the annual rate of completed rapes is about 35 in every 1,000 female students. That means with 10,000 female students, as many as 350 rapes may occur during the academic year (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).

To prevent the assault, the first step is to understand the issue. 

What is Sexual Violence? 

Sexual violence takes many forms. Domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, even sexist jokes or harassment are all considered to be sexual violence. Sexual assault and rape are sometimes used as interchangeable terms for forced sex and they are also defined as sexual violence (Boche & Dincesen, 2014). 

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN, 2009) define sexual assault and rape as follows:

Sexual Assault: “Unwelcome sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape.” 

Rape: “Forced or non-consensual sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.”

Ecological theories recognize that human behavior is shaped by factors at multiple levels, including peer and community environments. Sexual violence researchers and interventionists can capitalize on the successes in these fields by applying ecological prevention strategies to the existing multilevel concepts of sexual violence etiology (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

Components of Ecological Prevention

There are six components of its application in the sexual violence field. The first component is comprehensiveness. This component can be conceptualized as implementing change strategies at two or more levels simultaneously such as, educational presentations, media campaigns, and small-group psycho-educational programming. For example, prevention programming is often delivered in many of ways on college campuses (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The second component is community engagement. This component is centered on the participation of community members in the implementation of intervention strategies. It is defined as partnering with community members in the process of identifying targets for designing accompanying change strategies. In the state of Washington, for example, sexual assault programs that receive federal rape prevention and education funds are required to incorporate community engagement activities. Examples of community engagement strategies include: facility policy changes, staff education, and sexual violence educational programming for agency clients (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The third component is contextualized programming. This component is defined as designing intervention strategies that are consistent with the broader social, economic and political context of communities. Contextualized prevention cannot occur without engaging community members to identify their beliefs about the contributors to and likely solutions for sexual violence. The prevention efforts created for communities, such as colleges, would allow greater adaptation to the concerns, and will eventually facilitate the engagement of trusted, credible community members as deliverers of interventions (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The fourth component is theory based.For example, the program designed by Heppner and colleagues (1999) is a method of intervention that combines social-psychological theory and attitude formation with the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which aims to focus attention on the core message of the intervention. The ELM suggests that attention is increased by several factors: personal linkages with the intervention content, opportunities to evaluate the content, and motivation to get involved. The evaluation results indicate that rape supportive attitudes targeted by the program decreased at 5-month follow-up. Heppner and colleagues linked the expected attitude change with a theory, which offers a mechanism for that change. In so doing, they provided a testable, replicable intervention, which could be disseminated and tailored for other groups (as cited in Casey & Lindhorst, 2009). 

The fifth component is health and strengths promotion. This component consists of simultaneous efforts to enhance community resources and strengths together with addressing risk factors. Banyard and colleagues (2007) developed a bystander approach for sexual violence prevention. This program trains college students to recognize potentially problematic situations and intervene in sexually coercive interactions. After two months, the trained students reported decreasing rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs, and significant increases in positive bystander behavior when compared with the students in the control group (Banyard et al., 2007).

The sixth component is to address structural factors. This component is described as targeting structural and underlying causes of social problems for change rather than individual behavior or symptoms of larger problems. Addressing structural contributors to rape may work best when done in partnership with community members who can identify the underlying factors that support aggressive behavior is their specific environment (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).  

#commpsych    



Selin Tekin is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.

References

Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., & Plante, E. G. (2007). Sexual violence prevention through bystander education: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology, 35(4), 463-481.

Boche, R. & Dincesen, A. (2014). Sexual Assault [Required Prevention Education]. Retrieved from:  https://www.mystudentbody.com/Default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fMembers%2fStudent%2fModuleSelection.aspx%3fcourseID%3d28&courseID=28

Casey, E. A., & Lindhorst, T. P. (2009). Toward a multi-level, ecological approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault prevention in peer and community contexts. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 10(2), 91-114.

RAINN. (2009). Retrieved from: https://rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/sexual-assault


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