Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Art Therapy, and Bystander Prevention Campaigns

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The April 2011 Campaign It’s time … to get involved,” incorporates a bystander approach to sexual violence prevention.  Such an approach focuses on everyone speaking up to prevent sexual violence in our communities, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

How can Art Therapy be involved in engaging bystanders?  By using the power of art to engage people, to inform people and to create change in others.

Everyone has a role in changing community knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. In-person bystander education prevention programs provide chances to build skills for helping directly or indirectly without placing bystanders’ safety in jeopardy by focusing on practicing intervention strategies. Successful in-person programs usually include single-sex groups led by peer or professional educators using active learning methods that involve participants in discussions rather than lecturing to them. The number of programs employing the bystander approach is growing, but only a few have been scientifically evaluated and found effective in changing knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors. These evaluated programs are below.

●        Bringing in the Bystander™: Teaches college students appropriate and safe ways to intervene before, during and after a sexual assault. Experimental evaluation found this program effective regarding changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior.

●        Men’s Program/1 in 4: Focuses on empathy building with college men, teaching them ways of being supportive allies for survivors after incidents of violence. This program is effective regarding attitude change .

●        Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP): Focuses on student leaders and athletes in high school and college about men’s roles in gender violence prevention. The program uses sports metaphors and framework. Initial evaluation of the program indicated that it is effective regarding attitude change

●        MyStrength Club: Provides a multi-session club for high school boys, providing them a place where they can explore ways they can help prevent sexual violence. Preliminary evaluation showed promising results regarding increase in participants’ likelihood to say they would make changes in community and be willing to interrupt in instances of sexual harassment.

Social marketing campaigns – A growing number of social marketing or outreach campaigns utilize a bystander approach to preventing dating and sexual violence. Here are examples of two campaigns:

●        Know Your Power Campaign: Consists of four posters each featuring a different scene with bystanders modeling appropriate and safe intervention behaviors. A preliminary evaluation of the campaign indicates that promising differences were found between awareness of students who reported seeing the campaign compared to those who did not.

●        The Red Flag Campaign: Composed of six posters each focusing on a specific component of dating violence. The backside of each poster features a comparison of the positive qualities of healthy relationships versus the red flags of dating violence.

As art therapists, we can work with our community groups, local sexual assault centers, schools, and other youth serving agencies to create these programs or other art driven poster campaigns to engage bystanders in prevention.   If you need help, contact Carol at 540-371-5581 to talk about art therapy in Teens Against Sexual Assault programs.


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