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As an introduction to the Intervention Initiative, the programme states,
"The extent of sexual harassment, sexual coercion, rape and domestic abuse in student populations across England has been revealed in evidence from crime surveys, student surveys and professionals working with students. The evidence has produced an imperative for universities to act. This resource is a response to that imperative.”
The evidence-based programme is ground-breaking in a number of ways. Using a ‘bystander’ model, and utilising social norms theory, the programme is intended to change participants’ behaviour by unlearning passive assumptions about identity, violence, and one’s own power to influence the world around them. Ultimately, the programme is designed to increase the likelihood of an intervention by the participant, whether this is an intervention into a sexist chant or into a case of on-going domestic abuse of a friend, for example. Where they have been used, bystander models have been shown to be effective in:
Having been funded by Public Health England, the programme is free from commercial motivation, permitting it to be consistently focused upon its end goal of changing participant behaviour, rather than to generate income.
It is with this rationale in mind that in academic year 2016/17 Warwick SU embarked upon a trial of the Intervention Initiative, reaching out to and forming partnerships with two University of Warwick departments: PAIS and Law. Experienced ‘Intervention Initiative’ facilitators from the University of West England trained Warwick SU’s four facilitators to deliver the programme.
The programme itself was taught in six one-hour segments, in a part-lecture, part-seminar style with presentations, videos, role-play, group discussion, individual reflection, interactive tasks, and peer-to-peer discussion. The facilitators chose to adapt the Intervention Initiative content in places to better reflect and engage the Warwick community, whilst retaining the evidence-based nature of the programme.
At the conclusion of the programme, participants were asked to fill out a module feedback form, and were invited to attend an optional feedback session with the facilitators. To compare with the baseline taken at the commencement of the programme, participants were asked to report how confident they would be to make an intervention in two situations: ‘a banterous conversation between friends that was sexist, offensive or hurtful’, and ‘an incident with a risk of sexual violence or relationship abuse against another person’. Participants reported an average 83% confidence level intervening in the first situation at the conclusion of the programme, as compared with 62% at the commencement. Participants reported an average 84% confidence level intervening in the second situation at the conclusion of the programme, as compared with just 44% at the commencement, showing a clear improvement in participants’ confidence to intervene in situations spanning the full range of severity.
On a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (very good), students ultimately rated the module overall with an average score of 4.1, with testimonials such as “It was a great experience, I found it very useful; it illuminated everyday life situations, that I have not considered to be assault before.” and “This module was extremely interesting and I have learnt a lot about the issues with domestic and sexual violence. I have learnt the appropriate interventions in different situations. I would recommend this module.” It is believed that an average score of 4.1 for a small pilot programme such as this, having never delivered this programme before, is an extremely promising foundation.
Following the success of the pilot programme in 2016/17, Phase 2 expanded the delivery of the Intervention Initiative to all first-year undergraduate students in the PAIS department. The cohort was split into five seminar groups, and the course seminars were advertised via the PAIS department as part of the students’ academic timetable. The course was delivered by a team of four facilitators in pairs, and as in the pilot the course was delivered across six one-hour seminars.
Some further development of the course content was made in response to feedback from the pilot programme, to better reflect and engage the Warwick community, whilst retaining the evidence-based nature of the programme. Each seminar was also followed by a 30-minute period in which students could converse with session facilitators about the Intervention Initiative and the issues discussed, as well as access signposting to further support.
Students were surveyed at two points during the course, preceding the first seminar and following the final seminar. The first survey was used to obtain a benchmark for later comparison, and to provide data on the cohort’s views and behaviours relating to bystander intervention and consent used within the course delivery. The second survey, based on the PAIS department’s module feedback form, collected information on student perception of the module as well as returning to the benchmarking questions from the first student survey.
Students were asked to report how confident they would be to make an intervention in two situations. The first was ‘a banterous conversation between friends that was sexist, offensive or hurtful’, to which students reported an average 85% confidence level following the course, compared with an average 64% confidence level prior to the course. The second was ‘an incident with a risk of sexual violence or relationship abuse against another person’, to which students reported an average 82% confidence level following the course, compared with an average 45% confidence level prior to the course.
Feedback about the course was generally positive and indicated agreement that the Intervention Initiative should form part of the academic curricula of all Warwick students. Students gave the course an overall average rating of 4.1 out of 5, with positive testimonials such as “I think that this module is very important, I was very interested in attending and learning, and spreading this type of education is in my opinion is one of the of the best ways to fight the problem.” and ““I really appreciate having the chance to be part of it”. Students scored the statement “I would recommend this programme to other students” an average of 4.1 out of 5 (indicating ‘Agree’ on the given scale), and scored the statement “I would support this programme being added to the academic curricula of all Warwick students” an average of 4.2 out of 5 (indicating ‘Agree’).
The SU is now working with the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) to develop the Intervention Initiative into a module which can be rolled out to all students at the University of Warwick. In the coming academic year the SU will be hosting development workshops with student and staff stakeholders.
If you would be interested in hearing more about the development of the project or the Intervention Initiative more broadly, please email us via firstname.lastname@example.org.