Existing prevention efforts have been unsuccessful in stemming the consistently high rates of sexual victimization (SV) and incapacitated rape (IR) among college women. Heavy episodic drinking (HED) is a strong risk factor for college SV, particularly for IR and alcohol-related assaults, thus reducing women?s drinking may be an effective way of preventing IR and other SV (Testa & Livingston, 2009). However, to date, this hypothesis has received little attention. Personalized normative feedback (PNF) intervention is an efficacious means of reducing college HED by providing corrective social normative feedback (Scott-Sheldon et al, 2014). We believe that such an approach is well-suited to prevention of SV/IR via reduction in HED since it can be administered universally at low cost and can easily be adapted and expanded. Moreover, it can be administered early in the first semester of college, the time period in which college women are at highest risk of SV (Cranney, 2015). This R34 is designed to adapt, improve, and expand upon existing PNF intervention to optimize their ability to prevent college SV by reducing risky behavior. We plan to develop and test several innovative expansions to the PNF approach, including 1) providing PNF regarding hookups, casual sex encounters which reflect normative misperception (Lewis et al 2007) and are strongly associated with SV (Flack et al, 2007) and 2) providing personalized feedback regarding risk of SV associated with drinking and sexual behavior. We will also: 3) test an innovative method of feedback presentation that is interactive rather than static, allowing participants to choose their own referents. Finally, we will 4) seek to tailor messages for low risk women to help them to maintain their low risk status. We will begin with focus groups of heavy and light drinking college freshmen women, to gain insight into their experiences and beliefs regarding drinking and hookups, and to provide initial feedback on newly developed PNF prototypes. After refining PNF messages, we will test reactions (e.g., interest, credibility) to feedback content and to modes of feedback delivery (static vs. interactive) in a subsequent survey of first year college women. Finally, in a separate cohort of freshman women, we will conduct a pre- and post-test assessment using the most promising feedback conditions, providing preliminary short-term efficacy data. We will also consider mediating mechanisms and examine whether effects are moderated by initial levels of HED, hookups, or prior sexual victimization. Ultimately, these activities will result in the development of intervention conditions ready for testing in a subsequent large-scale RCT.

Public Health Relevance

Despite the consistently high prevalence of college rape and sexual victimization, no efficacious rape prevention programs have been developed. The proposed developmental research seeks to expand upon an existing efficacious approach to reducing college drinking as a way of preventing sexual victimization.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Planning Grant (R34)
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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Initial Review Group (AA)
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Freeman, Robert
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State University of New York at Buffalo
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United States
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