Trauma, abuse and bereavement / Category / Emile Du Toit / September 28th 2014
This 6th blog in the series of 10 discusses male prevention programs for rape. This week’s article is particularly research based as we take a critical look at the studies ‘demonstrating’ that rape prevention programs for men are a success. We examine the methodologies and designs of these studies in through a particularly thorough meta-analysis that was conducted. We conclude with a brief review of what this tells us about how to improve rape prevention programs.
When I examine my own beliefs and attitudes towards women I find them distinctly different to what is clearly our societal norm. But then I am unashamedly a feminist. It does make me wonder why my own beliefs ascribe equal status to women? Why do I see gender roles so differently? Probably I could point to various things; growing up with a strong, single mother, and modelling some of her beliefs, achieving a high level of education, or not growing up in extreme poverty or within a culture where women are automatically seen as unequal.
As a psychologist I can certainly understand why certain men and women have such prejudiced beliefs, and even practice such bigoted and antisocial behaviours. There is a difference however between understanding and justification. It is easier to justify prejudice as it is something that grows with us as we get taller, and we cannot be held entirely responsible for our thoughts and beliefs. They often steal uninvited into our heads like intruders in the night. That said, many of us are made aware of our prejudices and how others feel judged and suffer through them. Surely it is our duty to take ownership of this and attend workshops to make the necessary changes?
However, we always have control of our behaviours, and thus there is no justification for any form of sexual coercion or assault. The road to hell is paved with justifications!
Rape-supportive attitudes are held by many in society. Programs have been shown in some instances to increase knowledge about rape and change people’s attitudes so that they are less likely to blame victims. 1. Such outcomes have sometimes been considered as vital steps decreasing completed rape. 1. 4. However, despite prevention programs changing knowledge and attitudes in the short term, there is sadly actually very little to no current evidence that these attitudes remain changed over long periods of time.
Equally, changing of prejudiced attitudes and beliefs has not necessarily been shown to lead to less rape 1. 2. 3. 6.
So how come a fair many rape prevention studies for men report such positive effect sizes and significant changes? Let us put on our research hat today and examine potential problems with many of these studies, and critically analyse their results. I believe that it is essential for rape prevention programs that their success rates are correctly recorded, as well as what research results actually show them to be successful at. I think too often people are desperate for the programs to be successful to guarantee research grants etc. and to have ‘effective’ programs running on their campus’s that they manage - consciously or unconsciously - to make the data fit the marketing campaign.
The paradox of claiming exaggerated success rates with male prevention programs is that it will actually lead to poorer programs and thus lower actual success rates.
Today’s blog is slightly different in that we get to put on our researcher hats and have a look at the success of programs attempting to change men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women.
What I particularly like about this meta-analysis is that it looked not only at any benefits from these programs, but also scored them according to the quality of the research itself (i.e. how sound the research design and methodology actually were). If this sounds complex, think of it in terms of the study clearly defining what it is trying to measure, which is methodologically sound, where there are logical leaps from the data results to the conclusions reached.
I am going to pick out some of the findings from this meta-analysis that I feel are illustrative of both the many flaws in some of these studies as well as the more reasonable understanding of the potential flaws of the studies and the conclusions that we can reach from them: 5.
About this time you are probably thinking ‘Well thanks, Emile for ruining my day!’ Now that I have washed the glossy sheen off the current state of male rape prevention programs, let me attempt to make a few constructive comments:
This series How to prevent being raped will continue next week when we take our researcher hats off for part 7 of 10: Fighting back – avoiding completed rape.
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