violence prevention programs
It is clear that there is a need to develop and implement violence prevention programs for preadolescents and adolescents to reduce sexual victimization and interpersonal violence. These programs are likely to be most effective if they engage males to a greater degree as it is likely that many young men view these programs as not personally relevant as they do not see themselves as ever perpetrating or being the victim of violence. As one example of what this type of program could look like, the Fourth R program, designed to be implemented in health education classes, includes an emphasis on teaching healthy relationship skills (as opposed to focusing specifically on relationship violence) primarily through role-play instruction and targets ninth grade students (Crooks, Scott, Ellis, & Wolfe, 2011).
As another example, the Men as Allies intervention program focuses on changing perceived and actual social norms related to sexual violence as well as enlisting men as allies in preventing sexual violence and supporting victims (Hillenbrand-Gunn, Heppner, Mauch, & Park, 2010). Finally, bystander intervention programs targeting men, which in part focus on changing supportive attitudes toward violent behaviors, have been implemented at the high school level (Katz, Heisterkamp, & Fleming, 2011).
In addition to more general prevention programs focused on engaging all individuals to change attitudes and behaviors that are supportive of violence, there is also a need for more targeted interventions for individuals who are perpetrators and/or victims of interpersonal violence. Most importantly, ways to more effectively reach students who have been personally affected by violence need to be developed. For example, many students are likely unwilling to seek out traditional psychotherapy or counseling services or utilize the services of a victim advocate. However, these students may be willing to engage in interventions via electronic media such as web-based education programs or online counseling, which offer more anonymity and may not require that an individual identify as a victim. As another example, it seems likely that experiencing violence often has a negative impact on students’ academic performance, and thus integrating screening and services focused on personal safety and recovery from violence may be an important component of academic remediation plans. Similarly, students who have a history of alcohol or drug offenses may be in need of more comprehensive services focused on violence recovery as well as interventions focused on healthy decision making and reducing hazardous substance use. Finally, any intervention programming focused on students’ risky behaviors needs to be comprehensive and focus on the fact that many of these risk behaviors co-occur and influence each other, rather than targeting a single risk behavior in isolation (e.g., alcohol use).
With regard to policy on college campuses, first and foremost, all colleges need to have specific policies related to dating violence and sexual assault. It is also imperative that individuals who report victimization experiences are not then punished for doing so (e.g., a student being held in violation of a campus alcohol policy when she reports being sexually assaulted following drinking). In addition, there appears to be a shift in many campuses away from a solely punishment-based model for students who commit certain violations (e.g., students who are caught using marijuana). Programs focused on remediation may be more helpful to students and lead to better outcomes than solely punishment-based programs.
These programs are also likely to be most effective if they address the multiple risk factors and challenges that students who violate these policies often face. Finally, campuses should strive, as much as possible through policy, to focus on fostering a climate where positive and respectful interactions are encouraged and supported and where there is a proactive and preventive approach taken to the problem of interpersonal violence. This includes routinely presenting campus programming focused on interpersonal violence, routinely assessing the prevalence of violence on campus via anonymous student surveys, offering training programs for faculty and staff so they are equipped to assist students who have experienced violence, including empowerment-based programs for survivors of violence, and implementing prevention programs that engage all students.
With regard to research, there is a pressing need for more research with men who engage in sexually coercive and sexually aggressive behavior. This includes identifying different profiles of men who engage in these behaviors and evaluating whether men who engage in these behaviors desist, persist, or escalate in their sexually coercive and aggressive behavior over time. Such work is important to fully understand the risk factors for engaging in specific patterns of sexually coercive/aggressive behaviors. This will likely lead to the development of more effective preventive and intervention programs for men at risk of engaging in these behaviors as well as lead to better violence reduction programs. Relatedly, more research on typologies of physically aggressive relationships among college students is also needed, including work identifying patterns of physically aggressive behavior among students, risk factors for engaging in these behaviors, and the course of these relationships over time (e.g., whether the behaviors persist, desist, or escalate; whether the relationship ends). Similarly, more research on the impact of these relationships on students is necessary including the extent to which being in a relationship where physical aggression occurs affects individuals’ expectations for violence in future relationships, likelihood of entering another violent relationship, psychological adjustment, and risk behaviors. Finally, there is a need for more work focused on the relationships among health risk behaviors and experiences of violence as the victim or perpetrator (or both).
To conclude, to truly make progress on the problem of interpersonal violence on college campuses, a concerted effort involving all people, men, women, administrators, professors, students, and parents, is necessary. In addition, researchers, policy makers, and clinicians working in this area need to take every opportunity to impress upon campus administration that this is a problem that is affecting the whole campus, and that programs focused on violence prevention and intervention are worthwhile investments. It is also clear that changes at the broader societal level are in order and will likely have a positive impact on violence on college campuses. At the same time, colleges can serve as models for social change, and successful efforts at alleviating this problem can flow out to the broader community.
There are multiple patterns of sexually coercive and assaultive behavior among men, with some men desisting in these behaviors over time and others engaging in persisting or escalating behavior.
Multiple social and cultural factors contribute to college men’s sexually coercive and aggressive behavior including a cultural emphasis on sexual prowess among men and sexual chastity among women, frequenting social contexts where heavy drinking and casual sex frequently occur, and associating with peers who normalize coercive behaviors to obtain sex.
There are multiple risk factors associated with persisting in sexually coercive and aggressive behaviors including having a history of childhood abuse, having a history of engaging in delinquent behavior, having narcissistic and aggressive personality traits, and holding hostile attitudes toward women and positive attitudes toward casual sex.
There are few differences in the risk factors for engaging in sexually coercive or assaultive behavior following alcohol use or when sober, with the exception that men who engage in these behaviors following alcohol use are heavier drinkers.
Physical violence in college dating relationship is fairly common, is often mutual, and overall occurs at low levels of frequency.
There are multiple patterns of physically aggressive behavior in college students’ dating relationships with a minority of relationships involving severe and/or escalating violent behavior.
There are likely different risk factors and motivations for physically violent behavior among male and female students with men’s violence more likely to be motivated by jealousy or concerns about relationship termination, and women’s violence more likely to be motivated by a desire to stop emotional abuse or retaliate for being emotionally hurt.
Individuals in relationships where dating violence has occurred are more likely than students not in violent relationships to engage in other health risk behaviors including heavy alcohol use, substance use, and casual sex.
Implications for Practice, Policy, and Research.
Violence prevention programs should be implemented beginning in preadolescence or early adolescence.
Violence prevention programs should focus on engaging male as well as female students.
Targeted intervention programs are necessary for individuals who have perpetrated and/or been the victim of interpersonal violence.
Violence prevention and intervention programming should be integrated into multiple campus programs including those targeting students with academic difficulties or who have violated university policy (e.g., regarding substance use).
College administration should use multiple strategies to foster a climate where a proactive and preventive approach to interpersonal violence is taken including routinely offering campus programming on interpersonal violence, educating faculty and staff about interpersonal violence, and developing empowerment-based programs for survivors of violence.
Research should focus on identifying factors associated with different trajectories of violent behavior over time (i.e., desisting, persisting, or escalating).
Research should evaluate the impact of being in a violent relationship on college students including its impact on expectancies for violence in future relationships, likelihood of entering another violent relationship, psychological adjustment, and health risk behaviors.
Research should evaluate the interrelationships among experiences of interpersonal violence as the victim and/or perpetrator and health risk behaviors from a longitudinal perspective.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Abbey A. (2011a). Alcohol and dating risk factors for sexual assault: Double standards are still alive and well-entrenched. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 362–368. doi:10.1177/0361684311404150 Crossref.
Abbey A. (2011b). Alcohol’s role in sexual violence perpetration: Theoretical explanations, existing evidence and future directions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30, 481–489. doi:/10.1111/j.1465-3362.2011.00296.x Crossref. PubMed.
Abbey A., Jacques-Tiura A. J., LeBreton J. M. (2011). Risk factors for sexual aggression in young men: An expansion of the confluence model. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 450–464. doi:10.1002/ab.20399 Crossref. PubMed.
Abbey A., McAuslan P. (2004). A longitudinal examination of male college students’ perpetration of sexual assault. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 747–756. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.72.5.747 Crossref. PubMed.
Abbey A., Zawacki T., Buck P. O. (2005). The effects of past sexual assault perpetration and alcohol consumption on men’s reactions to women’s mixed signals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 129–155. doi:10.1521/jscp.184.108.40.206273 Crossref. PubMed.
Crooks C. V., Scott K., Ellis W., Wolfe D. A. (2011). Impact of a universal school-based violence prevention program on violent delinquency: Distinctive benefits for youth with maltreatment histories. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35, 393–400. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.03.002 Crossref. PubMed.
Demaris A., Kaukinen C. (2005). Violent victimization and women’s mental and physical health: Evidence from a national sample. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42, 384–411. doi:10.1177/0022427804271922 Crossref.
Gover A. R., Kaukinen C., Fox K. A. (2008). The relationship between violence in the family of origin and dating violence among college students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1667–1693. doi:10.1177/0886260508314330 Crossref. PubMed.
Grello C. M., Welsh D. P., Harper M. S. (2006). No strings attached: The nature of casual sex in college students. The Journal of Sex Research, 43, 255–267. doi:10.1080/00224490609552324Crossref. PubMed.
Hillenbrand-Gunn T. L., Heppner M. J., Mauch P. A., Park H.-J. (2010). Men as Allies: The efficacy of a high school rape prevention intervention. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88, 43–51. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2010.tb00149.x Crossref.
Katz J., Heisterkamp A., Fleming W. M. (2011). The social justice roots of the Mentors in Violence Prevention model and its application in a high school setting. Violence Against Women, 17, 684–701. doi:10.1177/1077801211409725 Crossref. PubMed.
Kaukinen C., Gover A. R., Hartman J. L. (2012). College women’s experiences of dating violence in casual and exclusive relationships. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, 146–162. doi:10.1007/s12103-011-9113-7 Crossref.
Kaura S. A., Lohman B. J. (2009). Does acceptability of violence impact the relationship between satisfaction, victimization, and commitment levels in emerging adult dating relationships? Journal of Family Violence, 24, 349–359. doi:10.1007/s10896-009-9234-7 Crossref.
Kendra R., Bell K. M., Guimond J. M. (2012). The impact of child abuse history, PTSD symptoms, and anger arousal on dating violence perpetration among college women. Journal of Family Violence, 27, 165–175. doi:10.1007/s10896-012-9415-7 Crossref.
Littleton H. L., Grills-Taquechel A. E., Axsom D. (2009). Impaired and incapacitated rape victims: Assault characteristics and post-assault experiences. Violence and Victims, 24, 439–457. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.24.4.439 Crossref. PubMed.
Littleton H. L., Tabernik H., Canales E. J., Backstrom T. (2009). Risky situation or harmless fun? A qualitative examination of college women’s bad hook-up and rape scripts. Sex Roles, 60, 793–804. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9586-8 Crossref.
Metts S., Spitzberg B. M. (1996). Sexual communication in interpersonal contexts: A script-based approach. Communication Yearbook, 19, 49–91.
Miller L. M. (2011). Physical abuse in a college setting: A study of perceptions and participation in abusive dating relationships. Journal of Family Violence, 26, 71–80. doi:10.1007/s10896-010-9344-2 Crossref.
Milletich R. J., Kelley M. L., Doane A. N., Pearson M. R. (2010). Exposure to interparental violence and childhood physical and emotional abuse as related to physical aggression in undergraduate dating relationships. Journal of Family Violence, 25, 627–637. doi:10.1007/s10896-010-9319-3 Crossref.
Muehlenhard C. L. (2011). Examining stereotypes about token resistance to sex. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 676–683. doi:10.1177/0361684311426689 Crossref.
Paul E. L. (2006). Beer goggles, catching feelings, and the walk of shame: The myths and realities of the hookup experience. In Kirkpatrick D. C., Duck S., Foley M. K. (Eds.), Relating difficulty: The process of constructing and managing difficult interaction (pp. 141–160). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Paul E. L., Hayes K. A. (2002). The casualties of ‘casual’ sex: A qualitative exploration of the phenomenonology of college students’ hookups. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19, 639–661. doi:10.1177/0265407502195006 Crossref.
Paul E. L., McManus B., Hayes A. (2000). “Hookups”: Characteristics and correlates of college students’ spontaneous and anonymous sexual experiences. The Journal of Sex Research, 37, 76–88. doi:10.1080/00224490009552023 Crossref.
Parkhill M. R., Abbey A. (2008). Does alcohol contribute to the confluence model of sexual assault perpetration? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 529–554. doi:10.1521/jscp.2008.27.6.529 Crossref. PubMed.
Regan P. C., Dreyer C. S. (1999). Lust? Love? Status? Young adults’ motives for engaging in casual sex. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 11, 1–24. doi:10.1300/J056v11n01_01Crossref.
Schwartz M. D., DeKeseredy W. S., Tait D., Alvi S. (2001). Male peer support and a Feminist routine activities theory: Understanding sexual assault on the college campus. Justice Quarterly, 18, 623–649. doi:10.1080/07418820100095041 Crossref.
Sher K. J. (1987). Stress response dampening. In Blane H., Leonard K. (Eds.), Psychological theories of drinking and alcoholism (pp. 227–271). New York, NY: Guilford.
Shorey R. C., Brasfield H., Febres J., Stuart G. L. (2011). An examination of the association between difficulties with emotional regulation and dating violence perpetration. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, & Trauma, 20, 870–885. doi:10.1080/10926771.2011.629342Crossref. PubMed.
Stein A. L., Tran G. Q., Fisher B. S. (2009). Intimate partner violence experience and expectations among college women in dating relationships: Implications for behavioral interventions. Violence and Victims, 24, 153–162. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.24.2.153 Crossref. PubMed.
Testa M., Hoffman J. H., Leonard K. E. (2011). Female intimate partner violence perpetration: Stability and predictors of mutual and nonmutual aggression across the first year of college, Aggressive Behavior, 37, 362–373. doi:10.1002/ab.20391 Crossref. PubMed.
Ullman S. E. (2003). A critical review of field studies on the link of alcohol and adult sexual assault in women. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8, 471–486. doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(03)00032-6 Crossref.
References for Future Reading
Kaukinen C., Gover A. R., Hartman J. L. (2012). College women’s experiences of dating violence in casual and exclusive relationships. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, 146–162.Crossref.