Sexual Violence (SV) and Teen Dating Violence (TDV) are significant public health concerns in the United States. Within Michigan, 5,500 sexual assaults were reported, more that 20% of which occur in Wayne County. More than 100,000 domestic violence offenses were reported to police in Michigan in 2009, however factors including gender, race, and socio-economic status influence decisions to contact legal systems. Understanding modifiable protective factors that may be efficacious in prevention is essential, including social norms and social connectedness, and how these may be leveraged in a context-specific approach to prevent IPV and SV.
The aim of the research is to adapt, implement and evaluate an empirically-based developmentally appropriate, primary prevention strategy for SV and TDV perpetration, focused on influencing community-level change through youth empowerment and positive youth development to build social connectedness, improve bystander intervention, and improve social norms. The role of technology in TDV and SV, as well as a gender sensitive lens regarding the similarities and difference in the mechanism, meaning and context of violence will be examined. The central hypothesis is that a student-driven primary prevention strategy, focusing on social norms and school and community connectedness, implemented in middle school settings will be effective in reducing the incidence of SV and TDV. Using a group randomized trial, the proposed study seeks to disentangle relationships between SV and IPV perpetration, youth empowerment, social connectedness, and social norms. The intervention and research will be conducted in collaboration with six high schools in Wayne County, Michigan, including focus groups, process observation, and biannual survey research. The intervention will be infused within the school curriculum as an elective for ninth and tenth grades students. Students who provide youth assent and parental consent will be surveyed six times over three years, starting with the ninth and tenth grades. Youth and parents will be recruited to participate in focus groups to inform the adaptation of the intervention strategy and provide greater understanding of the survey research. Extensive measures will be taken to preserve the confidentiality of research participants. At the end of each year, data sharing and assistance with interpretation will take place in a collaboration between the research team and intervention schools to strengthen infrastructure. Intervention and comparison schools will also be provided training and capacity building at the end of the project to promote sustainability. Analysis will be conducted using hierarchical linear modeling and structural equation modeling. A nested model structure that analyzes the hierarchical nature of the study variables will be used to estimate the effects of individual, relational, school, and community-level risk and protective factors for IPV and SV perpetration. An initial sample of 2,000 is desired have adequate power for complex analysis despite attrition.
The proposed research will evaluate the effectiveness of the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention (Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) Curriculum; Zimmerman et al, in press) to address prevention of sexual violence (SV) and teen dating violence (TDV), focusing on youth empowerment, school connectedness, and social norms. The proposed quasi-experimental, mixed methods design is theoretically driven and incorporates a scientific research design that addresses the effect of the prevention strategy on prevalence and incidence of SV and TDV perpetration among adolescent males and females of diverse races/ethnicities and social classes. The exploration of the efficiency and outcome of the adaptation of the YES curriculum will provide a foundation that informs continued research and practice for the widespread dissemination of this evidence-based prevention program for SV and TDV among youth.