Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
The CDC's latest statistics show that almost one in five women will be raped during her lifetime. And, the stats for college-aged women are even worse: Almost 80% of female victims are raped before they're 25. Thankfully, researchers have begun to look at concrete steps we can take to really address this problem — you know, in a non-horrible, non-victim-blamey way. And, a new study suggests the solution could start with something as easy as a web-based training program.
The study tested the efficacy of a bystander-model-based training program called RealConsent, which specifically targets college males and encourages them to intervene and take responsibility in dangerous situations. The participants were all undergraduates at Georgia State University and were recruited over the course of 10 weeks. After some participants dropped out of the study, the researchers were left with 215 who stuck with it for the full six months.
First, participants took a short survey that assessed their baseline attitudes towards (and whether or not they had intervened in) issues involving consent. Then, they were randomized to either receive the RealConsent training or to receive a control training program about general health issues. Both programs lasted three weeks; all participants were surveyed again right after completing the training, as well as six months later.
Results showed that those who received the RealConsent training reported engaging in fewer instances of sexual violence or harassment and intervening more often to stop them — compared to their counterparts who received the control training. Also, those who had undergone the RealConsent program reported significantly more knowledge on a variety of sexual assault-related topics; they believed fewer rape myths, had more empathy for victims, and exhibited a lower tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
But, as with many studies like this, participants were self-selecting and data was self-reported. It's possible that these guys were just more open and willing to change their minds and behaviors in the first place. Still, we're happy to count RealConsent as a small victory. Because, until a day comes when no sexual assault protest is necessary, the fight for change should take as many forms as possible.