American University
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"A Few Times I Have Knocked on Doors at Parties ...": Peers as Bystanders in Preventing and Responding to Dating Violence and Sexual Violence on a College Campus

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:17 authored by Jane PalmerJane Palmer

Routine activities theory posits that for a crime to occur, there needs to be the convergence of a willing offender, a suitable target and the lack of a capable guardian (Cohen & Felson, 1979). Since the passage of the Clery Act, colleges and universities have primarily focused on how to make offenders less "willing" or targets less "suitable" (Potter, Krider & McMahon, 2000), while ignoring the third of these converging factors: increasing guardianship. Recent research indicates that increasing the capable guardianship of fellow students through bystander intervention education may be a promising way to utilize informal social control to prevent crimes against women on campus (Banyard, 2008; Coker et al., 2011).This study reports on the findings of a mixed-methods cross-sectional survey conducted by the author in spring, 2011. A random sample of undergraduate students enrolled in a small private university in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States was invited to complete an Internet-administered survey. The survey included both closed-ended and open-ended questions. A response rate of 56% was achieved. Structural equation modeling was used to answer the first research question, "What predicts whether a bystander will intervene?" Bivariate probit regression was used to answer the second research question, "Are the correlates of intervening in dating violence situations different from those associated with intervening in sexual violence situations?" The third research question, "What actions do respondents report undertaking and which actions do they believe are most successful or least successful?" was answered based on a content analysis of responses to three open-ended questions.The findings of this study demonstrate that there are different factors that predict whether a bystander will intervene based on the timing of an intervention (proactive vs. reactive), the type of situation (violence-related or alcohol-related) and the type of crime (intimate partner violence vs. non-intimate partner sexual violence). In addition, there is a spectrum of beliefs about what strategies are successful to prevent sexual and intimate partner violence ranging from individualism (personal responsibility and avoidance), to interpersonal responsibility (one-on-one communication; buddy system at parties), to community-wide responsibility (i.e., education, advocacy and activism). Finally, the results from the quantitative measure of rape myths acceptance were contradicted by the responses to the open-ended questions. Implications for future research, policy and practice are discussed.



American University


Degree awarded: Ph.D. Justice, Law and Society. American University