Bringing in the Bystander

Program Goals/Target Population

Bringing in the Bystander is a sexual violence prevention program aimed at increasing, among potential bystanders and third-person witnesses, prosocial attitudes and behaviors toward and awareness of risky behaviors and precursors to sexual victimization. It also aims to increase empathy and awareness of the problems experienced by those victimized by sexual and intimate partner violence.

The program emphasizes that all members of the community have a role to play in preventing sexual and intimate partner violence. Bringing in the Bystander is often implemented in a university campus setting to college students. College-age students are part of a population whose age group and environmental setting would expose them to potential sexual and intimate partner violence bystander situations.

Program Components/Key Personnel

The Bringing in the Bystander program is implemented in either one 90-minute session or a multisession version that consists of two or three sessions, usually within 1 week. Originally, a booster session was delivered after 2 months. The program’s content is made up of several elements that work to increase awareness of sexual and intimate partner violence and to promote prosocial attitudes and behaviors aimed at preventing and intervening in such instances:

  • Information about sexual and intimate partner violence prevalence, causes, and consequences, including local examples and statistics
  • The introduction of the concept of bystander responsibility and the role they can play in preventing sexual and intimate partner violence in risky situations
  • Active exercises (e.g., role playing) to practice intervening safely and to support victims
  • Information about personal safety and availability of community resources
  • A bystander pledge to being prosocial and active bystanders in their community

The program is administered by professional co-facilitators or by peer facilitators trained in the program who lead discussions and exercises and deliver the intervention. The facilitators include both male and female professionals or students who have some leadership and facilitation experience and an expressed interest in preventing sexual violence. They are trained in two three-hour sessions. The facilitators work in male–female pairs to deliver the program to single-sex groups. During training, facilitators receive information on the program and how it differs from other types of interventions, as well as guidelines on how to deliver the curriculum successfully.

Program Theory

Theories of community responsibility and bystander behavior emphasize the importance of a larger community response toward preventing sexual and intimate partner violence. The program focuses on expanding this awareness to the larger community by not solely focusing on intervening on potential victims or perpetrators. Instead, the program provides groups of individuals in the community with the skills and knowledge to intervene by interrupting situations before or during an incident, speaking out against social norms supportive of sexual and intimate partner violence, and being an ally of those victimized.

Intervention ID: 
18 to 23

Study 1

Banyard and colleagues (2007) used a randomized experiment to evaluate the effects of the Bringing in the Bystander treatment on attitudes, knowledge, and behavior on the intervention group. Participants in the study were recruited from the undergraduate cohort of the University of New Hampshire, through flyers at the student center. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 23, and were paid for their participation.

The pretest sample (n=389) was 55.8 percent female, with an average age of 19.4 years. The sample was 90 percent white; 38 percent were in their first year (29.4 percent were sophomores, 19.8 percent were juniors, and 12.4 percent were seniors). The participants were randomized into three groups: a control group (n=115), a one-session treatment group (n=137), and a three-session treatment group (n=137).

The study was implemented in two waves during successive academic years. Participants filled out pretest, posttest, and 2-month follow-up questionnaires, as well as 12-month follow-ups for the first wave group and 4-month follow-ups for the second-wave group. With the exception of gender at the 12-month follow up, there were no differences between groups, or waves.

The study used the same measures at all periods. These included a knowledge assessment (of sexual violence and prosocial bystander behaviors) component, the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale – Short Form, the College Date Rape Attitude Survey, bystander attitudes, behaviors and efficacy scales, and a decisional balance scale. The bystander attitudes, efficacy, and behavior measurement instruments were created and piloted by the program developers for this study.

The control group received no prevention program, completing only the questionnaire at each period. Those in the control group were also given a list of community and college resources at the posttest. The one-session group received a single 90-minute prevention session led by a team of peer leaders (one male and one female) in sex-specific groups. The three-session intervention group received three similar 90-minute sessions during a single week with expanded content.

The effects of the intervention on the three groups (and gender) were studied using repeated multiple analysis of covariance (or MANCOVA) over the pretest, posttest, and 2 month follow-up. Multiple analysis of variance (or MANOVA) was used to examine differences between pre- and posttest.

The data collected at the 4-month and 12-month follow-ups were only used in an exploratory analysis, since the sample sizes were much smaller (due to the different waves of collection and attrition).


Study 1

Knowledge and Rape Myth Acceptance

Banyard and colleagues (2007) found that, from pretest to posttest and at the 2-month follow-up, the Bringing in the Bystander intervention significantly improved both treatment groups’ knowledge of sexual violence compared to the control group. Similarly, from pretest to posttest and at the 2-month follow-up, the treatment groups’ scores were significantly different from the control group for rape myth acceptance. This indicated significantly less acceptance of rape myths among the intervention groups.

Bystander Attitude, Behavior, and Efficacy

The results further showed significant differences in bystander attitudes (likelihood of intervening), efficacy (confidence in ability to intervene), and behavior (actions taken in the previous 2 months) between the treatment groups and the control group, from pretest to posttest and at the 2-month follow-up. This indicates that the intervention was successful in improving bystander awareness and prosocial behaviors to prevent or intervene in instances of sexual violence.