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Empirical and Theoretical Background

Sexual assault is a major public health problem across American college campuses. Currently, one in five women will experience rape while in college.1 The problem hasn’t improved or regressed over the years – it has stayed about the same. In 2013, Congress enacted the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which requires primary prevention of sexual violence for all incoming undergraduate students.2

A report from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention, categorizes bystander intervention as primary prevention programming in the second highest ranking and as “selected programs found to be effective in reducing risk factors for sexual violence or related outcomes using a rigorous evaluation design”.3 The CDC also reported that, “more evidence is needed, but the bystander approach to prevention is already gaining traction in the field.”3 Theoretically, the Green Dot program and other bystander intervention programs draw from the Theory of Planned Behavior and assumes that rape myths, or attitudes, and confidence, or self-efficacy, influence bystander attitudes which in turn influences actual bystander behavior.4

Nationally, the Green Dot program has been evaluated and has some robust results. One evaluation found that students trained in Green Dot had significantly higher rates of self-reported bystander behaviors than students who were just given a Green Dot speech as well as those students who received no intervention.5 A second study found the university that implemented the Green Dot curriculum had lower rates of sexual harassment and stalking than two campuses that did not have Green Dot.2 At the University of New Hampshire, a random sample of undergraduates were evaluated (n=186) and it was found that females and individuals who knew someone sexually assaulted engaged in more bystander behaviors.6 Additionally, it has been found that students with higher rape myth acceptance are less willing to intervene with bystander behaviors. The following groups are at a higher risk for having high rape myth acceptance: men, members of fraternities or sororities, student athletes, and individuals who have never received sexual assault education 3,7,8; thus further justifying the targeted groups for Green Dot training at Wash U.

1. Banyard, V. & Moynihan, M. (2011). Variation in bystander behavior related to sexual and intimate partner violence prevention: correlates in a sample of college students. Psychology of Violence, 1(4): 287 – 301.
2. Coker, A., Fisher, B., Bush, H., Swan, S., Williams, C., Clear, E., & DeGue, S. (2014). Evaluation of the Green Dot Bystander Intervention to Reduce Interpersonal Violence Among College Students Across Three Campuses. Violence Against Women, 1 – 21. DOI: 10.1177/1077801214545284
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Preventing sexual violence on college campuses: Lessons from research and practice. Retrieved from:
4. McMahon, S., Allen, C., Postmus, J., McMahon, S., Peterson, A., Hoffman, M. (2014). Measuring Bystander Attitudes and Behavior to Prevent Sexual Violence. Journal of American College Health, 62(1): 58-66. DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2013.849258
5. Coker, A., Cook-Craig, P., Williams, C., Fisher, B., Clear, E., Garcia, L., & Hegge, L., (2011). Evaluation of Green Dot: An Active Bystander Intervention to Reduce Sexual Violence on College Campuses. Violence Against Women, 17(6): 777-796.
6. Puchlopek, A. (2013). Rape Myth Acceptance and Bystander Attitudes on Campus: Understanding Students' Perceptions of Sexual Assault. Retrieved from:
7. Banyard, V., Moynihan, M., & Plante, E. (2007). Sexual violence prevention through bystander education: an experimental evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology, 35(4): 463- 481.
8. Langhinrichsen-Rohlin J, Foubert JD, Brasfield H, Hill B, Shelley-Tremblay S. (2011). The men’s program: does it impact college men’s self-reported bystander efficacy and willingness to intervene? Violence Against Women, 17:743–759.