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Effective Programs

Few programs, to date, have been shown to prevent sexual violence perpetration. A systematic review conducted by CDC’s Injury Center, and updated by an ongoing review of newer evidence, has identified only three programs to date that have been shown to be effective, using a rigorous evaluation methodology, for preventing sexual violence perpetration. Only strategies focused on perpetration prevention are included here,

• Safe Dates
Safe Dates is designed to prevent the initiation of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in adolescent dating relationships. Intended for male and female 8th- and 9th-grade students, the goals of the program include the following:
o Changing adolescent dating violence and gender-role norms
o Improving peer helping and dating conflict-resolution skills
o Promoting victim and perpetrator beliefs in needing help and seeking help through community resources

Safe Dates has five components: a ten-session course, a play script, a poster contest, parent materials, and a teacher training outline. Research found reductions in sexual dating violence perpetration and victimization that continued through a four-year follow-up period.

• Shifting Boundaries
Shifting Boundaries is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of dating violence and sexual harassment among adolescents. Intended for male and female middle school students, the program has two parts: a classroom-based approach and a school-wide component. The goals of this program include the following:
o Increasing knowledge and awareness of sexual abuse and harassment
o Promoting positive social attitudes and a negative view of dating violence and sexual harassment
o Promoting nonviolent behaviors and intentions in bystanders

Shifting Boundaries is a six-session classroom course with a school-wide program that involves revising school rules regarding dating violence, and sexual harassment, temporary school-based restraining orders, posters to increase awareness and reporting, and student ‘hot spot’ maps of unsafe school areas to determine the placement of faculty or school security for greater surveillance. A study found that the classroom curriculum alone was not effective for reducing rates of sexual violence. The school-wide intervention, however, was effective when implemented alone or in combination with the classroom instruction, with results showing reductions in sexual harassment, peer sexual violence perpetration and victimization, and dating sexual violence victimization after six months.

• RealConsent
RealConsent is designed to reduce sexual violence perpetration behaviors among college men using a bystander-based model that draws on social cognitive and social norms theory. The goals of this program are to prevent sexually violent behavior toward women by:
o Increasing prosocial intervening behaviors, including knowledge of and skills for safely intervening
o Correcting misperceptions in normative beliefs about sex and rape
o Changing harmful attitudes toward rape
o Increasing knowledge of the elements of sexual consent
o Affecting masculine gender roles

RealConsent consists of six 30-minute web-based, interactive modules that include didactic activities and episodes of a serial drama to model sexual communication, consent, and positive bystander behaviors. A study found that the program was effective in decreasing sexual violence perpetration and increasing positive bystander behavior at 6 month follow-up in a sample of college-aged men.
Promising Programs

Other programs and prevention strategies are gathering evidence for effectiveness. Four programs have been identified as promising, based on their comprehensive program models and evidence of impact on sexual violence in a non-rigorous evaluation or risk factors for sexual violence perpetration or related behaviors in a rigorous evaluation.

• Green Dot
Green Dot is a bystander-based prevention program designed to increase positive bystander behavior, change social norms, and reduce sexual and other forms of interpersonal violence perpetration and victimization. The program consists of a 5-hour training in bystander behavior for peer opinion leaders and campus/school-wide “persuasive speeches” to educate and engage the population. Green Dot was designed for college populations but has been adapted for high school, community, and military populations. A study found that Green Dot was associated with reductions in unwanted sexual victimization and sexual harassment, stalking, and dating violence victimization and perpetration on a college campus implementing the program compared to two comparison campuses without the intervention.

• Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention
Second Step: SSTP is a school-based, social-emotional skills based program for middle school students aimed at reducing bullying, peer victimization, and other problem behaviors. The program is delivered over 15 weeks by teachers and includes content related to bullying, problem-solving skills, emotion management, and empathy. A multi-site evaluation found that Second Step was associated with reductions in sexual violence perpetration and homophobic teasing victimization in one of the two states where it was implemented following 6th and 7th grade implementation. More research is needed to understand differences in effectiveness observed by site and the effects of the program through 8th grade.

• Coaching Boys Into Men
Coaching Boys Into Men is a dating violence prevention program that uses the relationships between high school athletes and their coaches to change social norms and behaviors. The program consists of a series of 11 brief coach-to-athlete trainings that illustrate ways to model respect and promote healthy relationships. The program instructs coaches on incorporating the themes of teamwork, integrity, fair play, and respect into their daily practice and other routines. At the one-year follow-up in a study, the program showed positive effects on dating violence perpetration (including physical and sexual violence), but effects on sexual violence were not assessed.

• Bringing in the Bystander
Bringing in the Bystander is a bystander education and training program designed for male and female college students. The program aims to engage participants as potential witnesses to violence, rather than as perpetrators or victims. Skills are provided to help when participants see behavior that puts others at risk. Skills include speaking out against rape myths and sexist language, supporting victims, and intervening in potentially violent situations. Research indicates that the program maintains a positive effect at 4.5 months following the intervention. More research is needed to understand the program’s effects on bystander behavior and sexual violence.

Applying the Principles of Effective Prevention to Sexual Violence

Until more is known about what works to prevent sexual violence perpetration, program planners can use existing prevention principles[PDF 65.8 KB] to strengthen their approaches and evaluate the effectiveness of new or existing programs. The prevention principles identified by Nation et al., in the resources below, are common characteristics of effective prevention strategies in behavioral health.

• Applying the Principles of Prevention: What do Prevention Practitioners Need to Know About What Works[PDF 195KB]

• DeGue S. Evidence-based strategies for the primary prevention of sexual violence perpetration. In Preventing sexual violence on college campuses: lessons from research and practice.[PDF 918KB] 2014; Available from www.notalone.gov/schools/.

• Nation M, Crusto C, Wandersman A, Kumpfer K, Seybolt D, Morrissey-Kane E, Davino K. What works in prevention: principles of effective prevention programs[PDF 65.8KB]. American Psychologist. 2003; 58(6/7): 449-56.

• Nine Principles of Effective Prevention Programs

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