Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Preliminary Evaluation of the 'Playing the Game' Sexual Assault Prevention Theatre Program

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Preliminary Evaluation of the 'Playing the Game' Sexual Assault Prevention Theatre Program

Article excerpt

Introduction

National studies estimated 18-25% of all women have been raped during their lifetime and that 1220% of college women have been raped during their college years. (1-4) Of these women, more than 80% knew their rapist with 62% reporting being raped by a current or former partner or boyfriend and 21% being raped by an acquaintance. (2) Fewer than five percent of college women and men who are victims of rape or attempted rape reported it to the police, making rape one of the most (if not the most) underreported violent crimes in the United States. (3) While approximately two-thirds of the victims tell someone such as a friend (but usually not a family member or college official), fears associated with the act of coming forward (e.g., further emotional trauma or having to relive the experience during the legal process) often ensures the perpetrator will not be caught and the victim will not receive the necessary assistance. Further, this lack of reporting and the often detrimental psychological effect on the student's life frequently go unnoticed by college personnel and the extent of the true problem is therefore masked in secrecy.

One major challenge to accurate prevalence rates of the problem and for determining the best programming for the population is the differences in defining rape. (3,5) Often, acquaintance rape victims do not label the assault as rape and therefore fall into a sense of denial the act really took place. Others tend to place the blame on themselves for the occurrence, believing an acquaintance is not capable of such an act or that their behaviors somehow lead the individual on. (3) Additionally, victims of acquaintance rape frequently cite a myriad of reasons for not reporting the assault to the police (e.g., embarrassment and shame, fear of publicity, reprisal from the assailant, social isolation from the assailant's friends, self-blame for drinking or using drugs before the rape, and mistrust of the campus judicial system). (6)

Since the early 1990's, when mandated sexual assault prevention programming was initiated, (7) many colleges and universities have instituted sexual assault prevention education programs. Key components of these programs have centered on educating males and females on the dangers and inaccuracies of rape myths, empathy induction techniques, risky dating and rape awareness behaviors, communication patterns expressing both intentions and expectations, and incidence and prevalence rates of the problem. (8-13) These programs are often implemented using a variety of techniques such as videos, interactive skits, role-playing, theatre, rape survivor stories, as well as basic lecture format. (14) A major concern however, has been that these varied components and formats for presentation often make it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of such programming and findings are often further confounded because of low sample sizes, short-term follow-up periods, lack of adequate experimental designs that include control subjects, and the use of inaccurate or inappropriate measures. (9-11)

Some argued that programming is not useful or effective as a primary prevention tool because they are typically not designed to prevent the first incident of sexual assault perpetration. (15) They contended that initial sexual experiences are often forced encounters usually taking place at a much younger age and therefore some women may already have experience with sexual assault, precluding any programming on the topic being effective. (15) Further, a meta-analytic examination of program effectiveness noted changes are not generally recognized for rape empathy or rape awareness behaviors, but are recognized for rape attitudes, rape knowledge, and behavioral intent. (11) Most of the programs reviewed were held with mixed-gender formats, although the largest effect sizes were noted in the all-female programs. Perhaps it is simply that researchers are not addressing the right population with the right components or perhaps the problem is so pervasive and ingrained that no programming will ultimately have the effect everyone wishes and the problem is here to stay. …

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