Gender violence and harassment have serious health consequences for youth, including significantly poorer mental and physical health, more trauma symptoms, and increased school avoidance. While schools have offered and/or implemented varying degrees of prevention/ education about gender violence and harassment, few evaluations of these programs have been conducted. Therefore, little is known about the efficacy and effectiveness of these interventions.
The rigor of evaluation studies that have been completed is uneven, there are virtually no program evaluations that incorporate qualitative and quantitative methods, and only one has used an experimental design. Most research on this topic has been on programs that target older middle and high school students. To serve as a true primary prevention effort, a number of researchers/educators have suggested that prevention programs need to be geared toward 6th and 7th grade students.
This study is designed to help increase the capacity of programs to prevent sexual violence and harassment. The long-term goal/objective of this study is to help prevent intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and sexual harassment by employing the most rigorous methods to evaluate strategies for altering the violence-supportive attitudes and norms of youth. There will be several benefits, as well, to schools participating in the research.
The specific aims/objectives of this study are to:
- evaluate the relative effectiveness of common approaches to youth sexual violence and harassment prevention programming (in terms of knowledge, attitudes, intended behavior, behavior, and emotional safety of youth participants) for one of the youngest populations ever studied; and
- assess the cost effectiveness of two interventions for reducing sexual violence and harassment.
- Treatment 1: A communication-based curriculum that addresses GV/H, by focusing on setting and communicating boundaries in relationships, the formation of healthy and mutual relationships/friendships, and the role of the bystander as intervener (5 hourly sessions over 5 weeks).
- Treatment 2: A law and justice-based curriculum for GV/H prevention focusing on deterring aggressive behavior by focusing on laws, definitions, information and data about penalties for sexual assault and sexual harassment as well as results from research about the consequences for perpetrators of gender violence (5 sessions/5 weeks).
- Control group: this group will go through their normal class schedule and not receive any of the elements of Treatments 1 or 2.