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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

West Virginia: Researcher Studies Bystander Behavior in Sexual Assault Prevention

West Virginia University researcher Dr. Danielle Davidov is examining violence-prevention programs that teach potential bystanders to short-circuit situations that are charged with violence. They give participants strategies for intervening in risky situations — for example, if they hear one person call another a sexually degrading name, or see a semiconscious person dragged out of a bar. They also make bystanders more likely to intervene if the need arises, rather than staying silent.

“The goal of these programs is to reduce violence perpetration, which in turn will reduce victimization,” said Dr. Davidov, an assistant professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health and adjunct assistant professor in the School of Medicine. Her work has received funding from the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

She and her collaborators at the University of Kentucky are examining bystander-intervention programs — at approximately two dozen universities — and identifying which combinations of elements within the programs correspond to the greatest decreases in sexual violence. They are distinguishing the program components that make bystander interventions more effective and more likely. And they are pinpointing ways to make programs more cost-effective. Their project — now in its fourth and final year — received $1.6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Through statistical modeling, surveys and interviews, the researchers are determining what programs are offered on college campuses and which parts of them seem to work the best. Eventually other universities can replicate those parts and launch their own evidence-based programs.

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