New Research Focuses Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts on Adolescent Boys

Many sexual assault prevention programs focus on educating women on how to avoid sexual violence or on bystander prevention programs aimed at diffusing situations that may lead to sexual assault. But a new initiative developed by the One Circle Foundation of San Rafael, California, seeks to prevent sexual assault at its source, the behavior of boys and young men.

A team of scholars at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is using a grant from the New York State Department of Health to examine the effectiveness of the curriculum developed by the Once Circle Foundation to educate boys ages 12 to 14 about what it means to be a “real man.” The curriculum provides training that promotes healthy relationships between young men and young women. The program includes a male leader who will instruct and council the boys on relationship skills and communication and seek to develop empathic behavior towards women.

Janis Whitlock, leader of the Cornell research team stated that “the idea is that they’re building strong relationships with each other and with a positive adult role model, so they’re actually able to model what positive relationships can be.”

Many of the risk factors for sexual violence, such as hypermasculinity and endorsement of aggression, are attitudinal and start to develop at this age through many moments of interactions with other boys and men, Dr. Whitlock said. “This is a perfect time to be giving them a variety of models to choose from.”

Dr. Whitlock joined the staff at Cornell University in 2004. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Whitlock holds a master’s degree in health behavior and health education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in human development from Cornell University.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment


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