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  1. Shifting Boundaries

Shifting Boundaries

Program Goals

Shifting Boundaries is a two-part intervention—classroom curricula and schoolwide—designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school students by highlighting the consequences of this behavior for perpetrators and by increasing faculty surveillance of unsafe areas within the school. This primary prevention program aims to:


  • Increase knowledge and awareness of sexual abuse and harassment
  • Promote prosocial attitudes and a negative view of dating violence and sexual harassment
  • Promote nonviolent behavioral intentions in bystanders
  • Reduce the occurrence of dating and peer violence
  • Reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment

Target Population

Research suggests that adolescents can experience dating violence and sexual harassment as young as sixth grade (Callahan, Tolman, and Saunders 2003). Thus, the Shifting Boundaries intervention is designed for middle school students in sixth and seventh grades.



Program Activities

Shifting Boundaries is an intervention designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of dating violence and sexual harassment among adolescents. The intervention consists of two parts: a classroom-based curricula and a schoolwide component.



Classroom curricula

The classroom curricula has six sessions that cover 1) the construction of gender roles, 2) the setting and communicating of boundaries in interpersonal relationships, 3) healthy relationships, 4) the role of bystander as intervener, 5) the consequences of perpetrating, and 6) the State and Federal laws related to dating violence and sexual harassment. The six lessons are flexible with current school schedules and are taught over 6 to 10 weeks. Lessons are taught by trained substance abuse prevention and intervention specialists.



These six lessons use both concrete/applied materials and abstract thinking components. Two of the activities consist of students measuring their own personal space and creating ‘hot spot’ maps of their school that highlight safe and unsafe spaces in regard to dating violence and sexual harassment. The curriculum includes a fact-based component based on the idea that increased knowledge about facts and consequences of one’s behaviors are appropriate and useful primary prevention tools. Facts and statistics about sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and the legal definitions of all of these terms are part of this fact-based component. Students explore the concepts of laws and boundaries, consider laws as they apply by gender, plot the shifting nature of personal space, learn how to help a friend in need, and learn about other sources of help. One of the last activities dictates that students sign the Respecting Boundaries Agreement, which is tied to prohibited behaviors in the school rules.




Schoolwide intervention

The second component of Shifting Boundaries is a school-level intervention. This intervention affects the entire school building and consists of revising school protocols for identifying and responding to dating violence and sexual harassment, the introduction of temporary school-based restraining orders, and the installation of posters in the school to increase awareness and reporting of dating violence/harassment. The classroom curricula and the schoolwide intervention are linked, as the student ‘hot spot’ maps of unsafe areas in school are used to determine the placement of faculty or school security for greater surveillance of these areas. The building interventions are conducted on the same schedule as the classroom curricula, lasting 6 to 10 weeks.

Intervention ID
226
Ages

10 to 15

Rating
Promising
Outcomes

Study 1

Taylor and colleagues (2011) examined numerous outcome measures that are summarized graphically on page 13 of the final report (see link under Evidence Base). Outcomes were measured immediately after the intervention and 6-months later at a follow-up assessment.



Overall, only the schoolwide intervention and the classroom/schoolwide-level (hereafter referred to as combined) intervention had statistically significant impacts on the outcomes, but the results overall were mixed. It appears that the most important classroom activity was the ‘hot spot’ mapping of unsafe areas within the school that informed the schoolwide-level intervention. However, the classroom curriculum, by itself, had no significant effect on any of the outcome measures.




Increased Knowledge

The schoolwide-only intervention group was not significantly different from the control group on knowledge scores at postintervention or at 6-month follow-up. However, there were statistically significant differences in students’ knowledge scores in the combined intervention group postintervention and at the 6-month follow-up, compared with the control group. The combined intervention group had significantly better knowledge scores than the control group regarding sexual abuse and harassment.



Attitudes Toward Violence

Controlling for baseline attitudes, there were no statistically significant results found for any interventions on attitudinal outcomes postintervention or at the 6-month follow-up.



Bystander Behavioral Intentions

Immediately postintervention, none of the intervention groups reported significantly greater intentions to intervene as bystanders. However, at the 6-month follow-up the schoolwide-only intervention exhibited a positive and significant effect on students’ intentions to intervene in the suggested scenarios. The schoolwide intervention had a bystander component encouraging students to intervene if they were to see abusive behavior among students, and the researchers note that this outcome seems to have occurred.



Victimization Outcomes

There were several combinations of outcome measures of violence victimization and perpetration. The prevalence (total number of cases) and frequency (number of occurrences of a repeated event) were measured for total peer violent and sexual victimization, dating partner violent and sexual victimization, and sexual harassment.



Postintervention

For students in the schoolwide-only intervention there was a 34 percent reduction in the prevalence of sexual victimization by a peer as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the frequency of sexual victimization by a peer. There were also no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-only intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.



For students in the combined intervention, there was a statistically significant reduction in the frequency of total violent victimization by a peer (36 percent), but not in the prevalence of violent victimization by a peer. There was also a significant reduction in the prevalence and frequency of sexual victimization (32 and 34 percent, respectively) as compared to the control group. But there were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.




6-month follow-up

For the schoolwide-only intervention there were statistically significant reductions in the frequency of total violent victimization by a peer (27 percent), the frequency of sexual victimization (35 percent), the frequency of dating partner violent victimization (54 percent), and the prevalence and frequency of dating partner sexual victimization (50 and 53 percent, respectively).



However, there were some contradictory effects found as well for the schoolwide-level intervention group on total victimization by a peer. Students reported an 88 percent higher prevalence of total victimization by a peer compared to the control group. A similar finding was discovered for sexual harassment. The likelihood of students in the building-only intervention reporting the prevalence of any sexual harassment victimization was 107 percent more than that of the control group (or more than twice as likely).



Despite this higher reported prevalence of total victimization by a peer and sexual harassment, the reported frequency of both of these events was significantly less than that of the control group at the 6-month follow-up. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-only intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.



For students in the combined intervention group, there were statistically significant reductions in the prevalence and frequency of total sexual victimization (34 and 41 percent respectively) as well as a significant reduction in the frequency of total victimization by a peer (33 percent), but no significant reduction in the prevalence of victimization by a peer. There was also a significant reduction in the frequency of sexual harassment (26 percent) as compared to the control group but no reduction in the prevalence of sexual harassment. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.




Perpetrating/Offending Outcomes

Self-report data on student’s perpetrating or committing acts of violence was also examined. Similar to the victimization data reported above, the offending outcomes were gathered for the prevalence and frequency of perpetrating any violence, sexual violence, dating partner violence and sexual violence, and sexual harassment.



Postintervention

Similar to the unexpected victimization finding for the schoolwide-level intervention group, the prevalence in total violence perpetrated was significantly greater compared to the control group. Students reported a 55 percent higher prevalence of total violence perpetration compared to the control group. However, there was more than a 30 percent reduction in the frequency of perpetrating any violence. There was also a 51 percent reduction in the frequency of dating partner violence as compared to the control group but there was no significant reduction in the prevalence of dating partner violence. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-level intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.



For the combined intervention there was more than a 30 percent reduction in the frequency of perpetrating any violence as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the prevalence of perpetrating any violence. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.




6-month follow-up

For the schoolwide-level intervention there were statistically significant reductions in the prevalence and frequency of sexual violence perpetration on peers (47 percent and 40 percent, respectively) and in the frequency of sexual harassment (34 percent) as compared to the control group. However, there was still a significantly greater prevalence in total violence perpetration as compared to the control group. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-level intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.



For the combined intervention there was a 32 percent reduction in the frequency of total violence perpetrated as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the prevalence of total violence perpetrated. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.

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