Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence among College Students

Period of Performance: 05/01/2015 - 10/31/2015


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

National Health Promotion Associates
White Plains, NY 10604
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence among College Students. This Fast-Track SBIR proposal is designed to address the urgent need for an effective primary prevention approach to the problem of sexual violence among college students. It is estimated that 1 in every 5 college women has been sexually assaulted while in college. There is a dearth of primary prevention strategies that have demonstrated significant reductions in sexual violence in college students as part of a rigorously designed evaluation. Research shows that many victims of sexual assault are abused while drunk, under the influence of drugs, or otherwise incapacitated, and that incidents of sexual violence typically occur in college party settings where the victim knows the perpetrator and the perpetrator has been drinking or using drugs. The goal of the proposed Fast-Track study is to develop, feasibility test, and test for effectiveness an innovative new approach to the primary prevention of sexual violence among college students utilizing both digital and face-to-face intervention modalities, based on a successful evidence-based substance abuse and violence prevention approach called Life Skills Training (LST). The LST approach is designed to build personal self-management skills, social skills, and other life skills needed to reduce substance abuse and violence, increase resilience, and successfully navigate developmental tasks. The LST program has been extensively tested and found to effectively prevent substance abuse, violence and aggression, and risky sexual behaviors in a series of randomized controlled trials with 18 separate cohorts of students, with behavioral effects reported in over 30 peer-reviewed publications. In the Phase I of this proposal, we will develop prototype materials for the primary prevention of sexual violence based on the LST model. The curriculum materials will address the relationship between sexual violence and substance abuse;positively change social norms surrounding alcohol/drug abuse and sexual violence;train bystanders to identify and appropriately respond to problematic situations;and build social, self-regulation, and relationship skills through interactive learning and behavioral rehearsal scenarios. We will focus group test the prototype materials with first year students and academic administrators to demonstrate feasibility, relevance, usability, appeal, and proof-of-concept. In Phase II, we will fully develop the skills building curriculum materials and conduct a rigorous randomized controlled trial to examine the impact of the intervention. Forty colleges will be randomized into either an intervention group that will receive the new intervention or a treatment-as-usual control group that will receive the existing information on sexual violence provided at the school. At the end of a two-month intervention period, and at 6- and 12- month follow-up assessments, we will compare changes in behaviors, norms, attitudes, and knowledge regarding alcohol, drug abuse, and sexual violence. The ultimate intervention holds promise for wide dissemination as an evidence-based primary prevention approach for sexual violence to four-year colleges, community or junior colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, for-profit schools, trade schools, and career and technical schools.