Raising a Red Flag on Dating Violence Evaluation of a Low-Resource, College-Based Bystander Behavior Intervention Program

Amanda E. Borsky, AIR
Karen McDonnell, Monique Mitchell Turner, and Rajiv Rimal, George Washington University

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, March 9, 2016, 0886260516635322

Encouraging bystanders to intervene safely and effectively in situations that could escalate to violence—known as bystander behavior programs—is a growing yet largely untested strategy to prevent dating violence. Using a quasi-experimental design, we evaluate a low-resource, low-intensity intervention aimed at preventing dating violence among college students. The integrated behavioral model (IBM) was used to guide the evaluation. We also assess which IBM variables were most strongly associated with bystander behaviors.

Participants were drawn from two Virginia colleges that predominantly train females in the health profession sciences. The intervention group participated in a university-wide bystander behavior intervention consisting of a 30-min presentation on dating violence at new-student orientation and a week-long “red flag” social marketing campaign on campus to raise awareness of dating violence. Controlling for changes at the comparison university, results showed an increase in bystander behaviors, such as encouraging a friend who may be in an abusive relationship to get help, after the intervention and adjusting for potential confounders. However, no significant changes were found for bystander intentions, self-efficacy, social norms, or attitudes related to dating violence from pre- to post-intervention. Self-efficacy had a direct relationship with bystander behaviors.

Results suggest that low-resource interventions have a modest effect on increasing bystander behaviors. However, higher resource interventions likely are needed for a larger impact, especially among students who already demonstrate strong baseline intentions to intervene and prevent dating violence.