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Engaging Male Bystanders to Reduce Sexual Aggression: The Effects of Online Training and Bystander Alcohol Intoxication

Michelle Haikalis, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Bystander training is a form of sexual assault prevention that encourages bystanders— third-party individuals who are present when someone is at risk for sexual violence—to intervene in these scenarios. Although bystander training is most often delivered in-person, recent findings suggest that online formats may also be effective in training bystanders to prevent sexual violence (Kleinsasser, Jouriles, McDonald, & Rosenfield, 2014). Although bystander training programs show promise in reducing sexual assault (Banyard, Moynihan, Cares, & Warner, 2014), evaluations of these interventions have relied largely on self-report methods to measure primary outcomes (i.e., bystander efforts to intervene). Sole reliance on self-report as a means of evaluating outcomes is problematic in part because individuals who undergo bystander training may over-report their helping behaviors, which they have been trained to recognize as the ideal. Direct observation of bystander behaviors may allow for stronger conclusions about the effectiveness of bystander training programs. Additionally, researchers have yet to investigate how alcohol intoxication may influence the likelihood of a bystander taking action. Alcohol intoxication has a myopic effect on cognitive and attentional processes (Steele & Josephs, 1990), which may impact bystanders’ ability to notice and intervene effectively in sexual risk situations. The present project investigates the unique and interactive effects of an online bystander training program and alcohol intoxication on men’s actual bystander behaviors observed in a laboratory setting. Results indicate that participation in an online bystander training program resulted in increased attempts and successful bystander prevention and interruption of sexual aggression during a laboratory analogue. Bystander alcohol intoxication impaired bystander assertiveness and successful bystander prevention and interruption of sexual aggression when participants were given an opportunity to intervene. Unexpectedly, alcohol intoxication did not moderate associations between the online bystander intervention and bystander behaviors. Knowledge gained from this study may enhance the development of programs to engage men as active bystanders to reduce sexual assault by shedding light on the effects of participation in a bystander training program and acute alcohol intoxication on actual bystander behaviors.

Subject Area

Psychology|Social psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Haikalis, Michelle, "Engaging Male Bystanders to Reduce Sexual Aggression: The Effects of Online Training and Bystander Alcohol Intoxication" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI22583486.