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Researchers suggest that educational programs are the most effective acquaintance rape prevention approach. At this point, there is no research to suggest whether other interventions, such as having only single-sex residence halls , enforcing residence halls visitation rules, placing anti-acquaintance rape educational posters in residence halls, or banning alcohol on campus, are effective in preventing acquaintance rape.
Because acquaintance rape of college students often involves conflicting accounts of what occurred and, without the help of witnesses, determining which account is more credible, tailored prevention is the primary approach police, especially campus police, should use. Typically, the campus police role in rape prevention consists of providing self-defense training, doing environmental assessments of outdoor areas vulnerable to rape, and recommending the installation of cameras, lights, locks, etc. There is a strong argument that these approaches do not focus on preventing the most prevalent type of campus rape: acquaintance rape. If campus police predominantly invest in such approaches, the message to students is that "real rape" is stranger rape, and that is what police prevent, while acquaintance rape prevention is left to other campus departments or student organizations.
Educational programs should involve multiple intervention efforts, with repeated and reinforced exposure to the issue.62 Police and other trained professionals should conduct the programs before the most high-risk times, and again at later intervals, tailoring them to high-risk groups. Programs should focus on changing behavior, not just attitudes, and program evaluations must be done to determine if the various components are effective for your particular population.†
† For a full discussion of evaluating rape prevention programs, see Chapter 6 in Finn (1995) [Full text], and for a thorough discussion of the effectiveness of typical college rape prevention programs, see Yeater and O'Donohue (1999). [Full text].
Generally, researchers suggest that most college rape prevention programs suffer from several weaknesses including:63
Mixed-gender programs show uneven results in changing rape-supportive attitudes.64 Consequently, a number of researchers advocate separate programs for men and women to address gender-specific issues. Such programs may also remove the fear of discussing rape in front of peers of the opposite sex. Some colleges use trained students to conduct programs; however, the use of peer educators, male or female, remains unexamined empirically.65 In addition, there is no evidence that student role-playing is more effective than a combined lecture/video approach.66
As noted earlier, the risk of rape is highest during the freshman year, beginning with the first day of school. If police or college administrators cannot provide rape prevention programs on the first day of freshman orientation, they can mail letters to students and parents before freshman fall classes start, addressing rape and the relevant rules, laws and consequences; the letters should also stress the importance of parents' educating students about acceptable conduct.†
† Letters to parents may be effective in widening interest in the problem. One university asked the parents of incoming freshmen to speak with their son or daughter about rape (as well as several other problems that are significant for freshmen such as binge drinking and hate crimes). At another university, after a gang rape at a fraternity party, the campus police sent a letter warning parents of incoming freshmen, as well as insurance carriers, about fraternities in violation of alcohol laws (Bernstein 1996).
Outlined below are key elements of acquaintance rape prevention responses targeting different campus groups.1. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college men in general. Programs for men should focus on rape reduction. Attendance should be mandatory, both at the initial program and at follow-up programs during the freshman year and at the start of the sophomore year. Key program elements should include the following:
† One campus public safety director collaborated with the municipal police department to create a scenario-based brochure to educate male students about sexual assault and rape reduction. They also developed a scenario-based brochure tailored to women college students.
‡ Researchers agree about the importance of combining rape prevention programs for college students with substance abuse prevention programs, especially regarding binge drinking. Typically, substance abuse prevention programs focus on risks such as drunken driving, fistfights and vandalism, but the main emphases should be on the risks of sexual miscommunication and rape (Abbey et al. 1996).
‡ Representatives from campus counseling services should attend rape education programs and offer to meet privately with victims, helping them design individualized safety plans to reduce their risk of repeat victimization.4. Educating police about acquaintance rape of college students. Educating police about the extent of acquaintance rape (compared with stranger rape) of college students, and about the patterns related to it, can provide them with an important background context. The training should cover the research on high-risk times and high-risk groups, the elements of effective rape prevention programs, and the need for police involvement in the programs.§ Police involvement can help assure students that the college takes acquaintance rape seriously.
§ Although this guide does not address investigative issues, it is important to note that police training for acquaintance rape investigations must include components on evidence gathering when the offender will likely claim consent. For information about the different investigative methods for acquaintance vs. stranger rape cases, see material published by the National Center for Women and Policing.5. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college administrators, campus judicial officers and other key campus personnel. Top campus administrators should be called upon to clear the way for police to provide education and prevention programming in residence halls , fraternities and sororities, to athletic teams, and incoming students during orientation.70 It is also necessary to educate all campus healthcare staff, residence directors and assistants, and Greek advisors about rape, as well as advise counseling personnel about the need to track anonymous reporting, ask students about prior rapes, and develop safety plans for prior victims.† In addition, police must educate athletic coaches about rape prevention. Some coaches will not need much persuading, others may be convinced of its importance as a means of keeping their athletes from jeopardizing their own or their team's reputation. Since coach support of rape prevention programs is crucial for success, police may want to advocate that coaches' active participation in the programs be used as one measure in coaches' performance evaluations.‡
† Police should ask those in college counseling services to develop indepth interview protocols for rape victims, including questions about prior victimization. Counselors should develop safety plans with victims that help them more accurately assess risky situations.
‡ It is also wise to provide adequate information to faculty, particularly those whom rape victims are likely to approach because their courses cover rape (e.g., psychology, sociology, women's studies, criminology, and criminal justice faculty). Police can also recruit faculty to conduct or participate in rape prevention programs.6. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs geared toward campus athletes and fraternity members. Acquaintance rape prevention programs should be tailored to focus on the specific risks for athletes§ and fraternity members. Program elements researchers suggest include the following:
§ If athletes are educated about rape only after an incident occurs, they may perceive it a punishment rather than a proactive rape prevention effort.
¶ Many of the gang rape charges involving athletes "seem to involve members of such contact team sports as football, basketball and lacrosse, rather than athletes from such individual nonaggressive sports as tennis and golf" (Parrot et al. 1994).
Colleges may choose to include the training in their stranger rape reduction efforts; however, it is unlikely to reduce acquaintance rape.
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