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Tracking sexual assault program effectiveness on campus

It starts with identifying prevention goals
University Business, September 2016
Source: Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault, Spring 2015; 150,072 students at 27 institutions participated
Source: Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault, Spring 2015; 150,072 students at 27 institutions participated (Click to enlarge)

With sexual assault, awareness efforts may well lead to higher incident reporting—and even assumptions that initiatives aren’t working. But there are still ways to measure program effectiveness.

It starts with identifying prevention goals, says Jane Stapleton, executive director of practice for the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

“Having clear intended outcomes will enable campuses to develop strategies to reach these outcomes and planned evaluations of their prevention will allow campuses to measure success.”

Common outcomes, she adds, are:

  • increased knowledge of the problems of sexual and relationship violence and stalking
  • increased knowledge of the prevention skills
  • increased confidence in the individual’s ability to carry out the prevention skill
  • increased acceptance that prevention is an individual’s responsibility
  • increased use of the prevention skill
  • decreased rape myth acceptance
  • decreased perpetration and victimization

Are today’s efforts working better than initiatives from five or 10 years ago? “I don’t know that we have reliable data to suggest that what we are doing now is more effective than what we have been doing historically,” Stapleton says. 

Yet, she adds, today’s prevention strategies are more skills-based, and teaching skills rather than just teaching about the problem is important.

“On the one hand, we have come a long way from where we started years ago,” she says. “On the other hand, we still have a long way to go in developing and evaluating effective prevention strategies.”

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