Examining the Bystander Effect and Sexual Violence: Do Middle School Prevention Programs Work? [Russell Sage College]


  • Gabriela Beatriz Cardona Russell Sage College
  • Michelle Napierski-Prancl Russell Sage College




Bystander Effect, Prevention Program, Sexual Assault


Since the horrific murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, sociologists have been concerned with better understanding and hopefully, reducing incidents of the bystander effect. This study builds upon past work by examining the bystander effect in cases of sexual harassment and victimization with a focus on middle school students.  Given the #metoo movement, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Judge Kavanaugh and the proposed changes to college campus policies on sexual assault proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, this study on sexual assault and the bystander effect is culturally relevant and timely.

Past studies have found that prevention programs influence bystander participation. The research discovered that bystander participation varies depending on the diverse types of sexual assault and harassment.

This research will examine the bystander effect in middle school adolescents dealing with sexual harassment, assault, or violence in schools. An analysis of adolescents’ belief on whether they can prevent sexual assault in their schools will be conducted. This research wishes to understand what characteristics contribute to students being active bystanders, someone who acts.

The Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in NYC Middle Schools data set is utilized in this study. The sample size is 2,655 students from inner-city middle schools. All statistical analysis is conducted with SPSS. Chi-square, Gamma, and Cramer’s V are used to test statistical significance and strength of relationships.

The results are interesting. Out of the seven hypotheses, three were found to be statistically significant. Gender, age, and in some cases attendance at a school prevention program had a significant effect on bystander intervention. In contrast, race and in other cases attendance at a school prevention program were not significant. The varying results towards student’s participation in prevention programs raises future questions on how prevention programs effect bystander effect.


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Author Biographies

Gabriela Beatriz Cardona, Russell Sage College

Sociology Student at Russell Sage College. Research interests include gender and sexuality, race, and class.

Michelle Napierski-Prancl, Russell Sage College




How to Cite

Cardona, G. B., & Napierski-Prancl, M. (2019). Examining the Bystander Effect and Sexual Violence: Do Middle School Prevention Programs Work? [Russell Sage College]. Journal of Student Research. https://doi.org/10.47611/jsr.vi.665