The Willingness of College Students to Intervene in Sexual Assault Situations: Attitude and Behavior Differences by Gender, Race, Age, and Community of Origin

Bridget K. Diamond-Welch, Melanie D. Hetzel-Riggin, Jennifer A. Hemingway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Recent research has examined how university students' characteristics affect their bystander intervention attitudes in sexual assault situations. This article examines how gender, age, and race interact to affect violence myths acceptance, empathy, bystander efficacy, intention to intervene, and bystander behaviors. We add to this literature a consideration of the effect of a student's community of origin - either rural or urban. Similar to previous research, we found a direct effect of gender on violence myths and empathy as well as bystander attitudes. Unlike previous research, we found that older students (over age 21 years) endorsed fewer rape myths, had more empathy, perceived benefits to intervention outweighing the costs, and had better bystander attitudes. Although there was no direct effect of race and community of origin on these outcomes, there were several interesting interactions. Age and gender interacted such that traditional-aged female students reported more bystander behaviors than traditional-aged male students. However, this pattern flipped for older group males reporting more behaviors than female students. It could be because older males were significantly more likely to believe that bystander methods are effective than older female students. Although older males had better attitudes toward intervention, males from both age groups lagged behind in positive attitudes compared with women. Race further complicated this picture. White men, both older and traditional-aged, had the lowest empathy among all groups. Traditional-aged white males had the lowest belief in the efficacy of bystander methods. Interestingly, older white males endorsed fewer rape myths than younger white males, but older minority males accepted more myths than traditional-aged students. The most interesting patterns develop when community of origin is added to the mix. Traditional-aged minority females from rural areas had the lowest rape myth acceptance and the best bystander attitudes. Meanwhile, traditional-aged white males from urban areas had the highest rape myth acceptance and, while all traditional-aged men had poor bystander attitudes, these male students had the poorest attitudes. Community background also impacted actual bystander behaviors, with traditional-aged minorities from rural areas reporting significantly more than comparative whites and, interestingly, more than older minority students from rural areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalViolence and Gender
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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