When Will Students Intervene? Differences in Students' Intent to Intervene in a Spectrum of Sexual Assault Situations

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

Publication Date



The recent shift in sexual assault prevention programming aims to engage college students as prosocial bystanders. Bystanders to sexual assault have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the incidence of sexual assault on the college campus, in addition to reducing the harm of one that has already occurred. Given the spectrum of sexual assault situations students have the opportunity to witness, it is important to know how students' intent to intervene varies between the different prosocial bystander behaviors. A sample of 815 undergraduate students completed the Sexual Assault Bystander Behavior Questionnaire in the fall of 2014. Students reported significantly greater intent to intervene with the potential or actual victim compared to the potential or actual perpetrator. Females reported significantly greater intent to intervene with both the potential or actual victims and perpetrators compared to males. Both males and females reported the greatest intent to perform postassault intervention behaviors, compared to pre- or midassault. The results of this study suggest that students may conceptualize prosocial helping behaviors differently depending on the context of the situation. Although tertiary prevention plays an important part in potentially mitigating the harm of an assault that has occurred, only primary prevention can reduce the incidence of an assault. Thus, the differing contexts of the assault situations—and gender differences of intent to behave prosocially—should be considered when developing programs aimed at increasing prosocial intentions among potential bystanders to sexual assault.


This article was originally published in Violence and Gender. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Violence and Gender


Copyright 2015, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.