"I'd Rather Be Doing Something Else:" Male Resistance to Rape Prevention Programs

Article excerpt

Although many people believe that universities are safe havens, college women are in fact three times more likely to experience sexual assault than the general population. Defined as "unwanted sex obtained by threat, force, or the assault of a victim who is incapable of consenting" (Littleton & Henderson, 2009), incidences of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States are extremely high (Abbey, McDuffie, & McAusllan, 1996; Brenner, McMahon, Warren, & Douglas, 1999; Gross, Winslett, Roberts, & Gohm, 2006; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski 1987; Rodriguez, Rich, Hastings, & Page, 2006; Schwartz & DeKeseredy 1997; Simon, 1993; Winslett & Gross, 2009). Because sexual assault is frequently underreported to authorities (Bohmer & Parrot 1993), statistics are difficult to ascertain; however, research over the past two decades has consistently shown that one in four college women will experience attempted rape or rape during her academic career (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993; Brenner et al., 1999; Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Koss et. al., 1987). Actual assaults and the threat of violence combine to negatively impact the experiences of college women. Subsequently the quality of their education is further compromised as they take fewer night classes, spend less time at the library after hours, and even drop out of school (Rozee & Koss, 2001 ; Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997).

Although universities have responded to the sexual assault epidemic in a variety of ways, their efforts have been largely ineffective. First, there has consistently been a focus on stranger rapes despite the fact that female college students know their assailants 90% of the time (Yeater & O'Donahue, 1999). In fact, Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997) confirm that campus initiatives typically perpetuate the outdated view that women will most likely be attacked by an unknown assailant. In reality, a female student is more likely to be attacked by an acquaintance walking her to the parking structure than a stranger jumping out of the bushes. Second, universities often focus on "target hardening" strategies such as additional campus police, security cameras, or lighting because it is easier to focus on the physical environment than address the complex attitudinal issues that perpetuate campus rapes (Pitts & Schwartz, 1997). Third, prevention efforts have wrongly targeted the victims of sexual assault rather than the perpetrators.

Historically, programs have focused on rape avoidance strategies and taught women to be aware of their surroundings, act assertively, and utilize self-defense techniques (Barone, Wolgemuth, & Linder 2007; Scheel, Johnson, Schneider, & Smith, 2001). While raising awareness among women is important, it is critical that college men are enrolled to prevent violence as they are the ones most likely to commit sexual assaults against women (Tewksbury & Ehrhardt, 2001). In an oft-cited study, for example, Malamuth (1981) discovered that 35% of college men expressed some probability of raping a woman if they knew they would not be caught. More recently, it was found that 48% of college men acknowledged some likelihood of assaulting a woman, and 19% admitted it would be likely or very likely if they knew there would be no penalty or consequences for committing sexual assault (Burgess, 2007). In a survey of 264 college men across 22 universities, 90% of respondents noted that they had acted in sexually aggressive ways in bar or party contexts, leading the researchers to conclude that sexual aggressiveness appears to be normative in these settings (Thompson & Cracco, 2008). We agree with Schwartz and DeKeserdy (1997) when they assert, "Sexual assault will not stop because women take better precautions. It will stop when men stop assaulting women" (p. 146).

Although contemporary researchers have argued that sexual assault prevention programs should target men (Anderson & Whitson 2005; Crooks, Goodall, Hughes, Jaffe, & Baker, 2007; Foubert, 2000; Katz, 2006; Kilmartin & Berkowitz, 2001; Rich, Robinson,Ahrens, & Rodriguez, 2008; Rozee & Koss, 2001 ; Smith & Welchans, 2000), there have only been a handful of programs that have responded to this call. …