The Sexual Assault Risk Reduction Program was a rape prevention program for college students. The program was designed to teach about the prevalence of sexual assault, distinguish between myths and facts about rape and rapists, describe techniques women can use to increase personal safety; and identify agencies that can assist victims of sexual assault. The overall goal of the program was to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault by increasing women’s use of self-protective strategies and enhancing women’s self-efficacy in responding to threatening situations.
The original version of the program was approximately an hour in length. Participants were presented with statistics on the number of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses and the legal definition of rape, to ensure that everyone was working with the same definition. Participants were then asked to complete a rape myths and facts worksheet, after which the responses were discussed in a group setting. The characteristics and attitudes often exhibited by offenders were identified, and case examples of acquaintance rape were discussed. Participants were taught strategies to increase personal safety and informed of agencies that assist victims of sexual assault. Given that both women and men were involved in the program, men were provided with guidelines that were thought to be helpful in avoiding situations that may lead to rape.
The program was later modified. The new version of the program was longer and included additional components. The new program took place in groups of 15–20 women, and was broken up into two different sessions. Session I consisted of informing participants of the societal factors that foster violence, and discussing definitions, risk factors for sexual victimization, and the need to reduce women’s self-blame. Participants watched two videos entitled “I thought it could never happen to me” and “Keep your eyes open: Alternative solutions for stressful social situations.” Additionally, there were also small- and large-group discussions. Session II included a 2 ½ hour self-defense course that was administered 1 week after the program. Finally, 3 months after program completion, participants attended a 1½ hour booster session to review strategies taught during the program.
The program was modified again to comprehensively address two components: psychological barriers to resistance, and intentions to engage in self-protective behavior (i.e., addressing a woman’s ability to foresee risk and engage in risk-reduction behaviors). All other program components were the same as in the previously discussed protocol.
The Sexual Assault Risk Reduction Program was grounded in social learning theory, as it strove to increase women’s ability to identify risky dating situations (Gidycz et al. 2006). Social learning theory is the belief that behavior is learned from the environment through observational learning. The theory holds that individuals actively think about the relationship between their behavior and the consequences that result. Therefore, through aiming to prevent risky behavior by teaching the consequences of this behavior and teaching self-protective strategies to replace this behavior, women are more likely to identify risky dating situations (McLeod 2011).