DURHAM, N.H. >> A study of teens at three New England high schools highlights the need for sexual aggression training programs to encourage intervention, according to researchers at the University of New Hampshire.
Nearly 94 percent of those surveyed by the university's Carsey School of Public Policy said they had the opportunity in the past year to intervene in instances of dating and sexual aggression but more than one-third said they were reluctant to do so. Reasons ranged from not wanting to fuel the drama to fear of repercussions.
Girls, the study found, were more likely than boys to intervene.
The study recommends that school districts and policy makers mandate training in how student bystanders should react to incidents of sexual aggression, both in person and on social media.
The researchers polled 218 students at three high schools — two urban and one rural — in the region. The study does not identify the schools where students were polled or the states in which they are located.
The survey revealed that more than 61 percent of the students said they intervened when a friend's girlfriend or boyfriend were exhibiting jealous or controlling behavior. Less than 30 percent said they intervened when an intoxicated friend was taken upstairs at a party. Nearly 45 percent said they expressed disagreement with a friend who said having sex with someone who is passed out or very intoxicated is OK.
Students reported being less likely to intervene in aggression that plays out in social media — citing fear the attack would spill over to them and noting that Internet intervention probably wouldn't succeed.
One student is quoted as saying that, short of driving to the aggressor's house and turning off the computer, "There's nothing you can really do."
Researchers say that while many high school health curricula include lessons on healthy relationships and dating aggression, few include bystander education and training as a critical component of preventing sexual aggression.