In April 2011, when Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the release of federal guidance on preventing sexual violence on college campuses, they cited a prevention program designed by psychologist Victoria Banyard, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of New Hampshire as a model for other colleges and universities across the country.
Banyard's "Bringing in the Bystander" program teaches both men and women how to prevent sexual violence through an hourlong skill-building educational session that covers how to intervene in scenarios that could culminate in sexual assault. The effort includes a campus-based social marketing campaign to build community awareness.
On a college campus, that might mean noticing if someone who's had too much to drink is being led away from the party by a fellow party-goer. In that case, steering the pair back to the party and making sure the woman's friends are watching out for her could help prevent a possible assault, Banyard says.
In more extreme situations, concerned bystanders might need to request assistance from a resident adviser or the campus police, she says.
"We're trying to teach people safe tools that might make them more likely to step in and help out, in situations across the continuum of sexual violence," Banyard says.
The program also teaches students how to support a friend who reports being assaulted. It helps victims heal if they hear "It's not your fault" and "I believe you" instead of the blame they often receive from family and friends, Banyard says.
About one in three women and one in five men will have a friend tell them about an unwanted sexual experience, she says.
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