2015 Archives

SMU professors aim to prevent sexual assault with bystander program


The following is from the March 17, 2015, edition of The Dallas Morning News.

March 17, 2015

Staff Writer

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.

The bystander intervention program developed by Jouriles and McDonald is called TakeCARE (Confident, Aware, Responsible, Effective). It will launch at SMU in the fall. It uses conversational language, customized scenes of college campuses and student actors.

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