The Efficacy of a High School Rape Prevention Program in Israel

Article excerpt

Sexual violence against women and girls in Israel is rather prevalent. To address this problem, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) provides rape prevention programs for middle to high school teens. These programs have been in place for several decades, but their effectiveness has not been evaluated empirically to date. This study seeks to fill this gap by performing an evaluation of one such preventive program. Three hundred and ninety-four 11th graders completed a preintervention and postintervention questionnaire, assessing their rape-related attitudes and behaviors. Results indicate a significant improvement following the workshop in the understanding of what distinguishes rape from mutually consensual relations, along with a substantial shift in many rape-supportive attitudes. At the same time, some victim blaming still remained. Likewise, self-reported behavioral changes were minimal, possibly because of a ceiling effect. Implications for future rape prevention programs in Israel are discussed.

Keywords: rape; rape prevention; rape myths; efficacy of rape prevention programs

Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread worldwide-Israel included (Koss, Gidycz, & Wiswniewski, 1987; Moor, 2009; Resnick, Kilpatrick, & Lipovsky, 1991). A recent prevalence study conducted in Israel yielded results very similar to those noted in studies in other countries, placing the prevalence of rape at around 20%, 33% for sexual assault, and 60% for sexual harassment (Moor, 2009). Although this study did not separate teens from adults, the breakdown of emergency calls to rape crisis centers in Israel indicates that around 60% of all assaults reported are perpetrated against teens or younger children (Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel [ARRCI], 2009). This figure resonates with findings from studies conducted elsewhere, in which sexual violence has been shown to be quite rampant during adolescence, affecting 30%-45% of all teens (Adair, 2006; Pacifici, Stoolmiller, & Nelson, 2001).

It is also well documented that most of sexual assaults are perpetrated by acquaintances rather than by strangers, as stereotypically believed (Lonsway, 1996; Parrot & Bechhofer, 1991). The reports of the ARRCI (2009) concur, placing the incidence of acquaintance rape in Israel at around 80%. All forms of rape, irrespective of the degree of familiarity with the perpetrator, result in severe psychological distress in the form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and sexual problems, to name a few (Resick & Schnicke, 1990; Resnick, Kilpatrick, & Lipovsky, 1991). Approximately 30%-50% of all rape victims appear to develop full-blown posttraumatic stress reactions at some point during their lives (Kilpatrick, Edwards, & Seymour, 1992).

To combat sexual violence, rape prevention educational programs have been introduced into high schools and colleges in various settings. Most programs described in the literature are intended for college students, and fewer for teens. These programs typically attempt to educate and provide accurate information regarding sexual violence, to bring about changes in rape-supportive attitudes and myths, to point out pitfalls in dating behavior, and to increase empathy toward victims (Anderson et al., 1998; Gidycz et al., 2001; Heppner, Humphrey, Hillenbrand-Gunn, & DeBord, 1995; Holcomb, Sarvela, Sondag, & Holcomb, 1993; Kress et al., 2006; Wekerle & Wolfe, 1999). Some formats provide coeducation, whereas others separate between the sexes (Kress et al., 2006). Consistent with persistent findings of a relationship between acceptance of rape myths and sexual aggression (see Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994, for a review of the literature), most programs are based on the assumption that changing attitudes will result in behavioral changes in the desired direction (Gidycz et al., 2001; Lonsway, 1996).

In Israel, rape prevention programs are offered by the ARCCI. …