SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #3: What are the cutting-edge prevention best practices that you would recommend?

Michelle N. Issadore, M.Ed.

Too often, solid and impactful areas of research are written off as fads or flashes in the pan due to a lack of understanding or a failure to grasp foundational concepts. Bystander intervention is an effective tool, but we have been too quick to tell students to intervene without helping them to learn how to intervene. One of my goals for SCOPE is to build upon what has been learned about bystander intervention by working with prevention scientists to disseminate a bystander intervention skills training curriculum. Coaching students to intervene in low-risk situations or at the start of patterns of dangerous behavior is a form of primary prevention that could reduce the frequency with which more extreme forms of intervention are necessary.

Bystander intervention is another element of prevention which cuts across topical areas. It has been applied successfully in sexual assault, alcohol abuse and hazing prevention, but has enormous implications for mental health, diversity and other areas of prevention need.

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4 Responses to SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #3: What are the cutting-edge prevention best practices that you would recommend?

  1. Pingback: What are the cutting-edge prevention best practices?

  2. Pingback: What are the cutting-edge prevention best practices? — CALCASA - California Coalition Against Sexual Assault

  3. Michelle, I think it is really crucial to encourage seeing well-researched practices as elements of a holistic approach rather than as flavors of the month. Campus and school administrators always ask me if bystander intervention is just a trend. It’s not, but it’s not the only approach we need, either. Those who ask that question are looking for the magic pill, which leads us to always be looking for the next magic pill, because there are no magic pills. Worked concertedly in the right environment and context, many prevention modalities are needed and effective. It’s hard work to figure out the right ones for the right challenges, but that is our mandate. I saw a post recently to a listserv that alleged that bystander empowerment work was a flash in the pan because it had already been tried and abandoned in the 70s. We just keep cyclically retreading the tired ideas of the past, was the theme of the post. I don’t see that as true. I think the technology of how we train and assess has given new life to ideas that we may have explored before, but never seriously researched. Maybe there are no new ideas, but there are old ideas that work in new ways, or data to show how to make the old ideas work today. Cynicism is toxic to prevention, but effective prevention can be the antidote to cynicism.

    • wearescope says:

      On behalf of Jane Stapleton:
      Hi Brett, I haven’t seen the post on the other listserv, but I feel strongly that the “new” approaches to bystander intervention are VERY different than the research that was done on bystander intervention in the 1970’s. For example, the early research (Latane & Darley, 1969 and 1978, and Moriarity, 1975) focused on how situational factors can influence bystander behaviors. The bystander intervention prevention strategies that we develop and evaluate, looks to this earlier research, BUT we also focus on more recent research related to community and social norms (Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997, Berkowitz, 2003; and Katz 2006) and perpetration (Lisak, 2000 and (Lisak & Miller, 2002). From this research we have created bystander prevention strategies that emphasize how bystander intervention can change community norms. We emphasize the development of a community of responsibility where everyone has a role to play in ending sexual and relationship violence and stalking. We don’t approach men as perpetrators or potential perpetrators and women as victims or potential victims. We also stress prevention. Prevention is about teaching people to STOP behavior, before it occurs, while it is happening or after it has occurred (primary, secondary and tertiary prevention respectively). I believe that this approach to bystander intervention IS very different than the bystander research of the 1970’s. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to develop and evaluate this new bystander intervention strategies and work with practioners to implement them. I would encourage anyone who views bystander intervention as a fad or passé to familiarize themselves with the current research on bystander intervention prevention. The June, 2011 (volume 17, issue 6) of the journal Violence Against Women highlights research on leading bystander intervention in-person programs, tools and methods to evaluate in-person bystander prevention programs and key strategies to develop and adapt bystander social marketing campaigns.

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