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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.
The projected timeline for the project is as follows:
If you would like any further information about the Intervention Initiative, email firstname.lastname@example.org.