Can peer pressure be a catalyst in rape prevention?
Since the school year has just started, many news sites have been atwitter with stories about how to prevent sexual assault on university campuses. One story that stood out was an NPR piece that aired on August 18 that discussed how peer pressure could prevent on-campus rapes. Sound strange? I totally understand. (After all, the last time I was subjected to hardcore peer pressure, my friends were trying to convince me to sneak out of my parents’ house. That was not good. But I digress…)
According to NPR, several studies show that if a male has friends who think violence against women is OK, that male may be more likely to commit sexual assault. So, it would make sense that males who have close friends who don’t support assault would be less likely to support violence against women.
One study, conducted by David Lisak in 2002, surveyed 1,800 men at the University of Massachusetts. The study found that 120 men in Lisak’s sample had raped women they knew, and two-thirds of the men were serial rapists. A number of the males surveyed detailed how they used excessive amounts of alcohol get women drunk and incapacitated. Many of the male students would brag about their conquests to their friends after the assault had occurred. The article reports that the “lack of vocal objection” from male peers allowed these men to think their behaviors were not criminal.
Now, a program has been created that aims to teach young men that having sex with drunken girls isn’t acceptable. The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program has been implemented in some Sioux City, Iowa high schools. MVP matches incoming freshmen with older students. The groups get together throughout the year and discuss assault and rape. The hope is that the training will give the men the courage to stop a sexual assault before it happens, or to speak out against it if they hear about an assault. While the conversations are tough, they prepare young men for real-life situations in college.
Luckily, this type of “training” and education is popping up everywhere. Many sexual trauma services give men details about how they can help stop violence against women (most of the advice is about ending rape culture and listening to men and women’s views on assault.) A non-profit, Men Can Stop Rape, is dedicated to teaching men how to end violence against women. And some universities are detailing how men can help prevent sexual assault on their campus websites. (Santa Clara University is just one example.)
Related on EcoSalon