- Say Something:A Preliminary Assessment of a Peer-Educator Training Program
With the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, exposés about Title IX investigations (e.g., University of Virginia, Florida State University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and the #MeToo campaign, there is renewed media focus on the topic of sexual assault on college campuses and in the wider culture. Scholars and activists in the movement to end interpersonal violence are moving universities forward to change the climate on campuses as well as in our communities. In the midst of new products and programs geared toward helping potential victims and reducing their risk of sexual assault, primary prevention advocates are continuing to focus efforts on changing larger cultural norms that underlie all forms of interpersonal violence and developing programming to alter potential perpetrator behavior. Primary prevention programming, paired with feminist-based policies and education, can create safer spaces for all students on campus, including survivors of violence.
We must assess the efficacy and effectiveness of training and education efforts about interpersonal violence. The purpose of the current study is to share initial assessment data on one such program at a mid-sized master's comprehensive university located in the southeast United States. The authors share this preliminary programming information and assessment data to promote progress in the field and to relay the challenges of assessing programs that are constantly evolving.
This study is rooted in feminist and pro-feminist masculinities theories and utilizes a social ecological approach to better understand rape myths that still plague college campuses. Feminist theory highlights the differences in expectations and attitudes of men and women living in patriarchal societies such as the United States. Since we are all raised within the same general social structure, it is important to understand how this structure influences our attitudes and behaviors. Feminist theory illuminates this understanding.
Broadly speaking, feminist theories focus on gender as a complex structure [End Page 32] that derives from social, historical, cultural, and biological influences. Gender informs and orders social life and social institutions and is structured by social and political-economic systems. In Western societies, a patriarchal system structures our expectations and norms for men and women, even on college campuses (Connell 29, Kimmel 210–13).
Focused on men's power over women, masculinities theory draws attention to the multifaceted aspects of male dominance (Connell 10, Jensen, "Getting Off" 26) and entitlement (Kimmel 227). Research on masculinities has revealed diversity among men, including contradictory experiences of male power (Jensen, "End" 46, Kimmel 7–11). Pro-feminist masculinities theorists examine the effects of being socialized in a culture where men are dominant over women, especially in sexual encounters (Jensen, "Getting Off" 53, Jensen, "End" 74, Kimmel 217). The prevalent view of men as innately hyper-sexual beings and of women as sexual objects encourages sexual violence in our culture (Jensen, "Getting Off" 56, Jensen, "End" 75, Katz 149). Although the normalization of sexual and physical violence against women has not resulted in every man being violent against every woman, it does create a culture in which the gravity of violence against women is minimized, considered acceptable if it occurs, and therefore normalized.
Feminist approaches to primary prevention focus attention on potential offenders in order to alter behavior and prevent interpersonal violence rather than placing onus on potential victims to reduce their risk of assault. Comprehensive prevention models such as the Social Ecological Model highlight a range of activities to build effective prevention strategies at multiple levels. The Social Ecological Model explains the occurrence of sexual violence and helps identify potential prevention strategies on four levels: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Because factors at one level are influenced by and connected to factors at other levels, primary prevention strategies seek to operate on multiple levels of the social ecology simultaneously (Centers for Disease Control, "Sexual Violence" 4–5, Centers for Disease Control, "Social-Ecological," Cox et al. 299). This model of primary prevention influences change on an individual level by shifting knowledge and attitudes surrounding interpersonal violence. This positively affects relationships and increases...