Web-based training targeted at college-aged men is an effective tool for reducing the number of sexual assaults on U.S. campuses, according to a researcher in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
The RealConsent program reduced sexually violent behavior and increased the likelihood a male student would intervene to prevent a sexual assault, said Dr. Laura Salazar, associate professor of health promotion and behavior, who published the findings in the paper, "A Web-Based Sexual Violence Bystander Intervention for Male College Students: Randomized Controlled Trial," in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The RealConsent training modules are designed to help young men develop empathy for rape victims and to understand the potential legal risks of having sex when one or both partners have been drinking alcohol or using drugs.
"It's focused on helping them not get in trouble, helping them communicate with their sexual partners and teaching them skills to intervene," Salazar said. "It's not focused on 'men are rapists.' "
Salazar said the Web-based approach makes training more cost effective for colleges than in-person, small-group formats, with the promise of reaching many more students.
More than 700 male undergraduate students at a large university were recruited to take part in the study, which surveyed them before the start of the training modules, after the training and six months later. The six-month follow-up found RealConsent participants were more likely to intervene to prevent sexual assault and less likely to perpetrate sexual violence than a control group.
Salazar said the next step is to develop web-based training for young women.
Salazar co-authored the study with Alana Vivolo-Kantor of the Centers for Disease Control, James Hardin of the University of South Carolina and independent consultant Alan Berkowitz. The study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.