This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Bystander Intervention: Examining Recognition and Response to Sexual Violence on a College Campus




Cooper, Cathy

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is well documented with findings revealing both men and women experience victimization. Sexual assault often results in physical and mental issues, poor academic performance, and financial burdens for victims, families, and society. Traditional prevention efforts to reduce sexual violence include security officers, late-night escort services, and self-defense training. These programs have mixed results and recent strategies have shifted toward a bystander intervention approach that focuses on engaging community members by teaching them to recognize warning signs, take safe and effective action to prevent possible assaults, and provide support to victims. To explore further the effect of bystander intervention training on behavior and attitudes related to sexual violence, this study surveyed a random sample of 324 college students. Bystander efficacy and rape-myth acceptance attitudes were assessed as primary outcome variables, with selected demographic variables serving as exploratory outcomes. Using one-way and factorial ANOVAs, this study found few significant differences between the experimental and control groups, the outcome variables, and the demographic variables. Students participating in bystander intervention training reported higher bystander efficacy and lower rape myth acceptance than non-trained students; however, the difference in bystander efficacy scores was not statistically significant (p > .05). Rape-myth acceptance test results indicated a statistically significant difference between trained and non-trained students; yet, the differences were small. Bystander efficacy outcomes indicated a statistically significant interaction effect between bystander intervention training and academic level and statistically significant main effects were recorded for age, academic level, other training, and knowing a victim of sexual violence/assault. No statistically significant interactions were observed for IRMA outcomes; however, simple main effects were documented for gender, being a victim of sexual violence/assault, or knowing a victim of sexual violence/assault. All significant outcomes were small, with 7% or less of the total variation in average scores attributed to differences in trained and untrained students.