Academic journal article Violence and Victims

A Meta-Analysis of Rape Education Programs

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

A Meta-Analysis of Rape Education Programs

Article excerpt

Meta-analysis of evaluation studies of rape education programs aimed at college students examined which program characteristics were related to participants' rape-supportive attitude change. Linear regression analyses revealed that: (a) published studies yielded greater attitude change than dissertations, presentations, or unpublished studies; (b) attitude change declined over time; and (c) men in mixed-gender groups experienced less attitude change after interventions than men in single-gender groups. Implications for the development of effective rape education programs are discussed.

Educational programs among college students to change rape-supportive attitudes are the most common form of rape prevention interventions. In fact, federal government regulations have made rape prevention efforts mandatory at all colleges and universities funded by the government (Heppner et al., 1995a), and numerous evaluations have been conducted in order to determine their effectiveness. The evaluations and the programs themselves differ on numerous dimensions including the gender of the target audience, the outcome measures, the format of the intervention, and the follow-up time after the intervention. In order for colleges to implement successful programs, the characteristics that result in desirable attitude changes need to be identified. The large number of studies available permit the use of meta-analysis to integrate the various sexual assault prevention program evaluations for college students.

Many different constructs have been examined as dependent measures in the evaluations of rape prevention programs. Various types of attitudes have been assessed including: rape myth acceptance, sex role stereotyping, adversarial sexual beliefs, acceptance of interpersonal violence, sexual conservatism, attitudes toward women, and levels of empathy toward victims. Some program evaluations have also included more behavioral types of dependent measures such as self-reported likelihood of raping, self-reported sexual victimization, sexual communication, and dating behavior intentions.

The most common dependent measure used in program evaluations are scales measuring attitudes toward rape, such as the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (Burt, 1980), therefore change in rape-supportive attitudes of program participants was examined in this metaanalysis. According to Burt (1980, p. 217), rape myths are "defined as prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists." Some examples of rape myths, as provided by Burt (1980, p. 217), are "only bad girls get raped"; "women ask for it"; and "any healthy woman can resist a rapist if she really wants to." Rape myths are problematic because they attribute blame to the victim and exonerate the offender (Breitenbecher, 2000).

Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994, 1995) recently criticized the various scales measuring rape myth acceptance. They argued that rape myth acceptance scales are riddled with problematic wording, items with more than one idea, and outdated items. They also stated that not all measures have been content validated. According to Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994), there are widely varying measures of rape myth acceptance because studies have failed to use consistent definitions. Therefore, they developed the following definition of rape myth acceptance: "attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women" (Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994, p. 134). However, despite their flaws, rape myths are still important to study, as emphasized by Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994).

There are two main assumptions underlying rape intervention programs that use rapesupportive attitudes as their dependent measure. The first is that education can change rape-supportive attitudes, and the second is that this attitude change will then lead to decreased sexual aggression. …

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