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A Mixed-Gender Date Rape Prevention Intervention Targeting Freshmen College Athletes

Article excerpt

This paper describes the evaluation of a mixed-gender workshop given to all freshman athletes from a large eastern university. A randomized post-test only experimental design was used to compare the date rape attitudes of freshman athletes who were exposed to a mixed-gender date rape workshop (n=56) with those of athletes who were not exposed (n=85). A previously validated instrument, the 25 item Date Rape Attitudes Survey (DRAS) was used as the criterion measure. Three hypotheses were tested with the following results: (1) men athletes reported attitudes that were more tolerant of date rape than those reported by women athletes (i.e., the men were more likely to condone date rape), (2) freshmen athletes in the control group reported attitudes that were more tolerant of date rape than those reported by athletes in the treatment group. The third hypothesis which was tested but not supported was that men athletes did not exhibit a greater program effect than women athletes. Finally, the authors discuss implications of the study and offer recommendations for future date rape prevention programs.

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Women college students are at a particularly high risk for being a victim of rape, particularly date rape or acquaintance rape. The peak age of victimization for women being 16-19 years, while the second highest age-range for victimization is 20-24 years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995). Most studies of the frequency of sexual assault among college students indicate that from 25% to 60% of college men have engaged in some form of sexually coercive behavior (Berkowitz, 1992), and that men who grow up in an environment that supports the objectification of women, encourages them to behave in ways that are sometimes violent and coercive, and who also subscribe to traditional sex roles of male sexual dominance are more likely than other men to engage in sexual coercion, sexual assault and rape (Muehlenhard & Falcon, 1990; Berkowitz, 1992).

Previous studies have documented the link between rape supportive ideology and sexually aggressive behavior (Koss, Leonard, Beezley, & Oros, 1985; Muehlenhard & Linton, 1987; Reilly et al., 1992), and there is further evidence to suggest that among the general population there are high levels of acceptance of rape tolerant stereotypes (e.g., Giacopassi & Dull, 1986; Goodchilds, & Zellman, Johnson, Giarusso, 1988). Burt (1991) notes that rape-tolerant attitudes and behaviors which are widely accepted, especially by rapists and potential rapists, including adherence to traditional sex-role attitudes; adversarial attitudes toward women, and acceptance of violence toward women, play an important role in contributing to sexual violence. Further, among people who accept these rape stereotypes and violence against women, these attitudes act as "psychological releases or neutralizers, allowing potential rapists to turn off social prohibitions against injuring or using others."

Other researchers have found that people who accept these adversarial sexual beliefs, and traditional sex-role attitudes tend to exhibit greater tolerance of rape, and to blame victims more than the perpetrator, while men report a greater likelihood of raping if they could be assured that no one would know (Acock & Ireland, 1983; Burt & Alkin, 1981; Check & Malamuth, 1983; Fonow, Richardson, & Wemmerus, 1992; Greendlinger & Byrne, 1987; Hamilton & Yee, 1990; Koss et al., 1987; Muehlenhatd & Linton, 1987; Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994; Reilly et al., 1992).

Based on these findings, a recent review of research focusing on rape (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994) concluded that the relationship between acceptance of rape stereotypes and sexually aggressive behavior may be the critical issue in this area. However, such evidence reveals association rather than causality, and other researchers (Muehlenhard & Linton, 1987) have stated that since the relationship between attitudes and sexually aggressive behavior appears stronger among men than among women, it is difficult to determine whether attitudes concerning sexual aggression are the cause or the consequence of sexual aggression. …