Sexual violence (SV) is a significant public health problem in the United States, particularly among 18-24 year old (college and non-college) populations. Females 18 to 24 have the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimization (6.1 per 1,000 for female college students; 7.6 per 1,000 for female nonstudents) compared to males of the same age and females of other age groups. Despite these alarming statistics, the CDC reports that there is only one program (?RealConsent?) rigorously shown to be effective in both increasing prosocial bystander behaviors and preventing SV perpetration among college students. Thus, there is a major gap in SV prevention programming. Of particular importance is the fact that RealConsent and other bystander intervention programs and their respective evaluations suffer from critical weaknesses and limitations that reduce overall impact on SV rates. These include: (1) an overemphasis on bystander attitudes or intentions versus actual behavior, (2) measures that rely upon self-report and are void of context when behavior is assessed, (3) not addressing the proximal effect of alcohol on bystander decision making and behavior in situations at-risk for SV, and (4) poor generalizability given the minimal focus on young adults who do not attend college. Intervention research must directly address these limitations in order to close this critical gap. The scientific premise of this proposal is that by integrating new content specific to alcohol use within the context of SV intervention into RealConsent, we can more effectively facilitate prosocial and effective bystander behavior ? even among intoxicated bystanders.
We aim to first examine the effects of proximal alcohol use on virtual bystander behaviors and then test the efficacy of the revised RealConsent program (i.e., RealConsent2.0). These goals will be achieved by (1) developing new program content for RealConsent2.0 that is informed by the integration of two theoretical perspectives ? Alcohol Myopia Theory and the Bystander Decision-Making Model, (2) implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in two distinct geographic areas (the Southeast and Midwest) with a sufficiently-powered, community-based sample of N=840 young men, (3) comparing the relative efficacy of RealConsent1.0 and 2.0 on observable bystander behavior among intoxicated and sober bystanders in a virtual reality environment 1-month post-intervention, and (4) comparing the efficacy of RealConsent1.0 and 2.0 on self-reported bystander behavior as a function of proximal alcohol use and the presence of alcohol within the behavioral context at 6- and 12-months post- intervention. The most significant contribution of the proposed project will be to provide the first evidence of how to promote prosocial bystander behavior in men who consume alcohol and improve future development, evaluation, and dissemination of bystander intervention programs. In doing so, this project will provide the necessary empirical foundation for existing bystander prevention programming to translate these findings directly into real-world applications that will ultimately have a significant impact on SV.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed project will test the efficacy of RealConsent2.0, which is distinguished by the integration of new program segments specific to how alcohol use functions to inhibit bystander intervention for sexual violence. Bystander behavior in response to intervention opportunities will be assessed directly via novel and validated virtual reality-based paradigm as well as indirectly via 6- and 12-month follow-up self-report assessments. The intended outcome of this project is to provide the first evidence of how to promote prosocial bystander behavior in men who consumed alcohol and improve future development, evaluation, and dissemination of bystander intervention programs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Freeman, Robert
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Georgia State University
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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