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  • Writer's pictureJohn Freedom

How friends can work together to protect against unwanted sexual experiences in college

Sexual victimization is a frequent occurrence on college campuses, yet surprisingly little is known about how first-year college women navigate and respond to this risk. This recent research study explored how perpetrators might target women in this group for a variety of reasons that include inexperience with alcohol, and being new to many of the social settings that are common in college, according to Jennifer Read, PhD, a professor and chair of the University at Buffalo Department of Psyc.

Previous work has explored bystander intervention, which focuses on how others in the social environment might respond to and come to the aid of someone in distress. Yet, the current research shifts that perspective to focus on friends in particular, rather than others in the social environment. Read says friends are more likely to take action than other bystanders, because acting to help someone depends largely on their relationship to the woman, and a perceived responsibility for her well-being.

"It is enormously important that women understand that by working together they can maximize their protection and safety in these contexts," says Read. "This study can take what women are doing naturally and refine this so that these strategies are being implemented more consistently and effectively."

This study was reported in Science Daily, and published in the April 18 issue of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.

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