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Effects of Bystander Programs on the Prevention of Sexual Assault Among Adolescents and College Students: A Systematic Review

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This document presents the results from a meta-analysis and review of literature on the effects of bystander programs on the prevention of sexual assault among college students and adolescents; the authors provide their research methodology, including data collection and analysis, and solutions for missing data, as well as a discussion of their findings.


Sexual assault is a significant problem among adolescents and college students in the United States and globally. Findings from the Campus Sexual Assault study estimated that 15.9 percent of college women had experienced attempted or completed sexual assault (i.e., unwanted sexual contact that could include sexual touching, oral sex, intercourse, anal sex, or penetration with a finger or object) prior to entering college and 19 percent had experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college. Similar rates have been reported in Australia, Chile, China, Finland, Poland, Rwanda, Spain, and in a global survey of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The authors of this systematic review and meta-analysis had the goal of examining what effects bystander programs have on preventing sexual assault among adolescents and college students. More specifically, this review addressed three objectives: the first objective was to assess the overall effects (including adverse effects), and the variability of the effects, of bystander programs on adolescents’ and college students’ attitudes and behaviors regarding sexual assault; the second objective was to explore the comparative effectiveness of bystander programs for different profiles of participants; and the third objective was to explore the comparative effectiveness of different bystander programs in terms of gendered content and approach. Findings from this systematic review provide evidence of the extent to which bystander programs, as mandated by the Campus SaVE Act, are effective in preventing sexual assault among college students. Additionally, by examining the effects of these programs among adolescents, this review provides educators and policy makers with information for determining whether such programs should be  in secondary schools. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2019