Summary: Psychologists have developed a 12-point list of sexual assault prevention strategies aimed at reducing the risk of college-aged males embarking on sexually aggressive or risky sexual behaviors.
Source: University of Iowa
A new study from the University of Iowa sought to begin development of a possible approach to reduce the risk that college-aged men engage in sexually aggressive acts or risky sexual behavior.
The study authors, led by Teresa Treat, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Iowa, developed a 12-point list of sexual assault prevention strategies. The list was created by the researchers based on previous research into risk factors that are associated with sexually aggressive acts—such as heavy alcohol consumption, difficulties reading women’s cues, and not seeking consent for sexual activity.
The authors found that 71% of the college-aged men surveyed used the sexual assault prevention strategies on a regular basis over the past year. Yet 15% of the survey takers reported they seldom or never used the preventative strategies, and men who said they have engaged in sexually aggressive actions had been much less likely to use the strategies than their peers.
The authors say the strategies may offer a potential avenue to tackling sexually aggressive behavior.
“We think we have a promising set of potential preventative strategies. We found most college men use these prevention strategies regularly,” says Treat, the study’s corresponding author. “The downside is some college men don’t use them much at all. Those college men who don’t use them much at all are much more likely to be sexually aggressive. So, future research should aim to evaluate whether they may be useful prevention targets.”
The survey group included more than 560 males at Arizona State University and Iowa, who earned course credit in a psychology class. The men answered questions that ranged from general biographical information (age, ethnicity, et cetera) to alcohol consumption, attitudes about women, sexual experience, and attitudes about sex.
The authors are revising the strategies based on feedback from the college students, and hope to administer the survey to a more racially and ethnically diverse pool.
“We also are in the beginning stages of figuring out how these protective strategies might be incorporated into prevention programs for further evaluation,” Treat says.
The authors also developed an 11-point list of protective strategies to address risky sexual behavior, based on risk factors stemming from previous research into the issue. These strategies include using protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, or having ongoing sexual relationships with no more than one person.
In terms of risky sexual behavior, the study found:
- Seven in 10 college-aged men surveyed reported they engaged in risky sexual behavior in the last year.
- 55% of college-aged men surveyed reported they used the preventative strategies on a regular basis when it came to risky sexual behavior.
- Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of college-aged men surveyed reported they seldom or never used the preventative strategies when it came to risky sexual behavior.
The study, titled “Protective behavioral strategies for sexual aggression and risky sexual behavior,” was published online Jan. 25 in the journal Aggressive Behavior. Co-authors include William Corbin from Arizona State and Richard Viken from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Funding: The National Institutes of Health, through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, funded the research.
About this psychology research news
Source: University of Iowa
Contact: Richard C. Lewis – University of Iowa
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Closed access.
“Protective behavioral strategies for sexual aggression and risky sexual behavior” by Teresa Treat et al. Aggressive Behavior
Protective behavioral strategies for sexual aggression and risky sexual behavior
Sexual aggression (SA) is a serious public‐health problem on college campuses, and there is a pressing need for basic research fostering the development of novel prevention strategies. The current study (a) developed measures of protective behavioral strategies (PBS) for sexual aggression (SA) and risky sex (RS); (b) characterized college men’s PBS use; and (c) evaluated whether those who reported engaging in SA and RS showed lower PBS use.
Undergraduate men from two universities (n = 567) who endorsed sexual attraction toward women completed measures of PBS, SA, RS, rape‐supportive and sociosexual attitudes, and alcohol consumption. On average, participants reported using PBS for SA and RS fairly often, but a sizeable number indicated that they seldom or never used the strategies.
Men who reported SA engagement in the last year, relative to their peers, endorsed sharply lower reliance on SA PBS and RS PBS. Men who reported at least one RS behavior in the last year used RS PBS far less often than their peers. The PBS measures converged as expected with other attitudinal and behavioral measures. The new PBS measures reference cognitive‐behavioral approaches that a large percentage of college men use on a regular basis, making them potentially acceptable prevention targets. Further, men at greater risk of exhibiting SA are much less likely to take steps to reduce the risks associated with sexual behavior, in comparison with their peers.
Thus, future work could evaluate the potential usefulness of incorporating PBS for SA and RS into primary prevention programming in both domains.