“We want them to recognize these situations and get out of them without physically needing to protect themselves.” — Simpson Rowe
The three developed a video-based program for teaching young women assertiveness training and allowing them to practice it with the goal of helping them resist unwanted sexual overtures that could ultimately result in sexual assault. Jouriles and McDonald also devised a bystander intervention program that teaches young men and women how to recognize and intervene in a dangerous situation.
Simpson Rowe, an associate professor and graduate program co-director in the SMU Department of Psychology, is lead author on the pilot study from SMU.
The virtual-reality simulation component of “My Voice, My Choice” utilizes a software program developed by Jouriles and McDonald in conjunction with SMU’s award-winning Guildhall video gaming program. Jouriles and McDonald are clinical psychologists in the SMU Psychology Department. Jouriles is professor and chair. McDonald is a professor and associate dean of research and academic affairs for Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Results of their study found teen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment.
The effects persisted over a three-month period following the training.
Melissa Repko, a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, interviewed Jouriles, who told her, “You can make an argument that realistically what we need to do is change the aggressor’s or the perpetrator’s behavior. But on the other hand, as a father, I didn’t want to just wait around,” said Jouriles.
The Dallas Morning News article, “SMU professors aim to prevent sexual assault with bystander program” published March 16, 2015.
By Melissa Repko
The Dallas Morning News
A boyfriend and girlfriend fighting at a party. A couple stumbling around in an alcohol-fueled stupor. A teen getting pressured to kiss someone who gave her a ride.
Those scenarios are depicted in two programs developed by Southern Methodist University psychology professors to help young adults prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment.
One program uses video to suggest how college students can intervene to help friends in risky situations. The other program uses virtual reality software so that teens practice being assertive and resisting unwanted advances.
Professors Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald, a husband-and-wife research team, have studied violence prevention for most of their careers. They’ve researched marital conflict, spousal abuse and children’s response to family violence.
Jouriles said he got interested in adolescent issues, such as dating violence, when their daughter was young. He wanted to help keep her safe.
“You can make an argument that realistically what we need to do is change the aggressor’s or the perpetrator’s behavior. But on the other hand, as a father, I didn’t want to just wait around,” said Jouriles, chair of SMU’s psychology department.
Universities have taken different approaches to fight campus assaults, such as talking about consent at student orientations, posting fliers on campus and hosting speakers. Some offer programs to teach students to recognize and intervene in dangerous situations.
SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.
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