Two Women Scholars at Clemson University Helping to Develop Sexual Assault Prevention App

Two women scholars at Clemson University in South Carolina are collaborating with a New York-based gaming company to develop an app to help prevent sexual assault among college students. Martie Thompson, a professor of youth, family and community studies, and Heidi Zinzow, a professor of psychology, are also conducting research with students who are trying out test versions of the app.

The app presents users with characters and scenarios that occur at a party. Characters portrayed exhibit sexist attitudes and “rape-supportive beliefs.” Others demonstrate effective intervention strategies. There are mini-games that put users into situations that are similar to real life. The app then offers feedback that challenges users’ preconceived and inaccurate notions about the prevalence of behaviors that may contribute to sexual violence. Zinzow and Thompson have helped the app’s developers ensure situations are consistent with risk factors and are informed by sexual assault prevention theories. They are seeking to deliver real, nuanced situations where there is no clear-cut “correct” answer. “We’re getting at the gray areas so that when the user gets feedback it’s all the more powerful,” Dr. Zinzow said.

“We see this as a potentially powerful tool that could be combined with in-person sessions that students normally receive on college campuses,” Dr. Thompson said. “It could act as a ‘booster’ that students could go back to over and over in order to explore the concepts that will help them prevent sexual violence.”

Professor Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in community psychology from Georgia State University. Dr. Zinzow is a graduate of Duke University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Georgia.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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