Date of this Version
The prevalence rate for sexual assault of U.S. college women has stayed around 13% since 1982 despite the efforts colleges and universities have made to create effective prevention programs. Campus violence prevention programs have changed in focus and approach as research has provided a broader understanding of sexual violence and the important roles men can play in its prevention.
Peer education is currently the most commonly used method of teaching sexual violence prevention information to college students, but unless college men become involved as sexual violence prevention peer educators, campus programs will not be able to effectively reach other male students. Studies have examined the impact of sexual violence prevention peer education on audience members and explored the experiences of male peer educators in anti-violence groups, but no research has focused on the reasons men choose to become sexual violence prevention peer educators.
Ten men who were sexual violence prevention peer educators at a Midwestern university between 1999 and 2008 were interviewed individually to understand what attracted them to sexual violence prevention, what experiences were barriers to their participation in the work, and how they overcame the barriers. A qualitative feminist-advocacy approach emphasized the participants’ voices and the meaning they ascribed to the experiences.
Five themes emerged from the study: belief in social responsibility and fairness, perception of self as an outsider; strong relationships with women; male mentors or role models invited them; and personal exposure to sexual violence. Personal exposure to sexual violence appeared in three different forms: knowing a victim; being a victim; and attending a presentation that “gave a face to the statistics.”
Suggestions for adapting sexual violence prevention programs to attract more male peer educators were given for each of the themes. Barriers unique to African-American and gay male peer educators were identified and strategies were recommended. The characteristics of feminist-advocacy research and implications for its use with college men were discussed.
Advisor: Marilyn L. Grady