Women's Program Research

Summary of Article Showing Results of The Women's Program

Foubert, J.D. & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Brasfield, H., & Hill, B. (2010). Effects of a rape awareness program on college women: Increasing bystander efficacy and willingness to intervene. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 813-827.

This study measured whether The Women’s Program could produce results whereby women would report greater efficacy and willingness to prevent rape from happening to other women when they themselves were in the bystander position, and whether women’s rape myth acceptance would decline after seeing the program. Prior studies have viewed women’s roles as limited to reducing their individual risk for rape, consequently leaving much of the prevention work to men (Katz, 2006). This study sought to document the efficacy of a program envisioning a broader role for women in ending sexual assault: from reducing personal risk for rape to teaching women bystander intervention techniques, which would conceivably increase the safety of all women in a culture.

A comprehensive review of the research literature (Banyard, Plante & Moynihan, 2004) revealed that several factors have been shown to increase the likelihood that people will intervene as bystanders. These include being aware of a situation in which someone is being victimized, making a prior commitment to help, having a sense of partial responsibility for helping, believing that the victim has not caused the situation to occur, having a sense of self efficacy related to possessing the skills necessary to do something, and seeing others model pro-social behavior. Potential bystanders are also likely to weigh the costs and benefits of intervention relative to how they personally believe it will affect their status in a reference group (Banyard, et al., 2004).

The more that a woman can recognize threatening cues in a situation that could turn into a sexual assault situation, the more likely she can resist or escape (Turchik, Probst, Chau, Nigoff, & Gidycz, 2007). Thus, preparing women to respond assertively to threatening situations has the potential for helping women to resist assaults (Turchik et al., 2007). Simultaneously, teaching women bystander intervention strategies empowers women to help all others to begin to be free from the societal burden of rape (Banyard, et al., 2007).



A total of 279 females participated in the study, with 189 participating in the treatment group and 90 participating in the control group. The majority of participants identified themselves as first-year students (n = 266), followed by sophomores (n = 6), juniors (n = 2), seniors (n = 1), and other (n = 1). The mean age of participants was 18.87 years (SD = 3.17, range = 17 to 46).


Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale

Participant’s attitudes toward sexual assault were measured using the short form of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (Payne, Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1999). This scale includes 20 items scored on a scale of 1 (not at all agree) to 7 (very much agree). Scores at the higher end of this scale indicate stronger belief in rape myths.

Bystander Efficacy Scale

Willingness to intervene as a bystander was measured by the bystander efficacy scale developed by Banyard, Plante and Moynihan (2005). This measure asks participants to indicate whether they believe that they could do each of 18 bystander behaviors and if so to indicate their level of confidence in performing this behavior. This scale yielded an alpha reliability of .89 in the current sample of women at pre-test. The coefficient alpha for this scale at post-test was .92.

Bystander Willingness to Help Scale

The Willingness to Help Scale was developed by Banyard, et al. (2005) and measures participants’ degree of likelihood of engaging in 12 bystander behaviors on a 7-point scale. Items came from research literature and from discussions with advocates and professionals working in the field of sexual violence. The alpha reliability for these 12-items was .82 in the present sample at pre-test and .88 at post-test.


IRB approval was obtained for the procedure used to collect this data and all participants gave informed consent prior to their participation. Participation was voluntary and all data were collected anonymously. Participants in this study were enrolled in one of many freshman orientation seminars (n = 64, taught by a total of 49 professors) at a moderately sized university in the southeastern United States.

Program participants completed surveys before and after seeing The Women’s Program. Control participants completed surveys before and after an unrelated stress management program.


Bystander Intervention

As predicted, female participants who experienced The Women’s Program reported significantly greater increases in their bystander efficacy over time than did female participants who experienced the control condition.

An analysis of the bystander efficacy scale revealed that the pretest-posttest comparisons were significant within the treatment group, F(1, 157) = 159.93, p < .001, partial η2 = .50 and within the control group, F(1, 83) = 7.45, p = .01, partial η2 = .08, as was the treatment-control comparison under the posttest condition, F(1, 240) = 22.28, p < .001, partial η2 = .08. The only simple main effect that was not significant for the BES was treatment-control contrast under the pretest condition, F(1, 240) = .07, p = .80.

As was found with the bystander efficacy scale, female participants who experienced The Women’s Program reported significantly greater increases over time in their willingness to help a potential victim when in the bystander role than did female participants who experienced the control condition.

The pretest-posttest contrast within the treatment group, F(1, 157) = 210.28, p < .001, partial η2 = .57 as well as within the control group, F(1, 83) = 36.55, p < .001, partial η2 = .31 were significant. The treatment-control group comparison within the posttest occasion of measurement was significant, F(1, 240) = 16.07, p < .001, partial η2 = .06, but it was not at pretest, F(1, 240) = .02, p = .89.

Rape Myth Acceptance

As predicted, these tests revealed a significant decrease in the mean score of the IRMA-SF from the pretest to posttest within the treatment group [F(1, 213) = 42.906, p < .001, partial η2 = .168]. Furthermore, and consistent with the lack of rape-related content in the control condition, the pretest-posttest comparison on the rape-myth acceptance scale within the control group was not significant [F(1, 213) = .101, p = .75].

Unlike women experiencing The Women’s Program, female participants in the control condition did not experience a significant reduction in their rape myth acceptance. The treatment versus control contrast for the pretest scores was not significant [F(1, 213) = .809, p = .369]. Unfortunately, the contrast between the groups failed to reach significance at the posttest occasion [F(1, 213) = 2.618, p = .107]. This pattern shows that the focal point for the interaction is the pretest-to-posttest drop in the mean IRMA-SF score for the treatment group.


As expected, results indicated that the program significantly decreased female attendee’s endorsement of rape myths. Although the experimental group had lower rape myth acceptance than the control group at the post-assessment period, this difference was not significant. This suggests that even successful programs such as The Women’s Program need to continue to enhance their efficacy. It is also possible that measures of rape myth acceptance could be enhanced to be more sensitive to change.

Results regarding changes in bystander behavior were precisely as expected. As we predicted, participation in The Women’s Program (One in Four, 2009) significantly increased both women’s confidence in their ability to intervene as a bystander, and their perceived willingness to help a potential abuse victim.

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