Educating for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse: An Investigation of School-Based Programs for High School Students and their Applicability to Urban Schools

Emily A. Greytak

Keywords: Adolescents, Comprehensive School Health Education, Homosexuality, Immigrants, Low Income Groups, Minority Groups, Secondary Education, Sex Education, Sexual Abuse, Urban Schools, Working Class

In the past decade, issues surrounding school safety have risen to the forefront of the public agenda. Schools in urban settings have been particularly vulnerable to critiques surrounding crime and violence and have responded by dedicating time, funding, and staff to violence prevention activities (Bowman, 2001; Toby, 2001). These school-based approaches to violence prevention fall into three main categories: control strategies, such as discipline policies and monitoring equipment; programs that focus on altering the school environment (e.g. smaller class sizes, family involvement, after-school programs); and educational and instructional programs designed to produce changes in individuals' attitudes, knowledge, or skills (Derzon & Wilson, 1999; Schwartz & Matzkin, 1999; Volokh & Snell, 1997). The latter strategies, which concentrate on primary prevention, have been touted as both more cost-efficient and successful (Bastain & Taylor, 1991; Bell, 1998; Ethiel, 1996; Flannery, 1998; Gottfredson, 1987; Kellam, Prinz, & Sheley, 1999; Kingery, 2000) than those designed to punish and legislate behavior.

Thus, it is not surprising that schools often utilize these type of education programs in an attempt to prevent one of the most pervasive forms of violence facing their students: sexual abuse1. Yet while many local education agencies have taken action to prevent sexual abuse by educating their high school students, little is known about the effectiveness about these programs, particularly about their impact on students in urban districts. How should educators and administrators in urban districts determine which programs, if any, they want to implement in an effort to prevent the sexual abuse of their students? In an attempt to answer that question, this article presents and critically reviews the available literature on sexual abuse prevention-education strategies for high school students, integrating the theory, evaluation research, expert professional opinion, and the recommendations of governments, policy think-tanks, and advocacy organizations, paying particular attention to the relevance of these programs for sexual and gender minority students, students of color, immigrant youth, and students from poor or working-class backgrounds.

Adolescent Sexual Assault and Prevention Programs

Studies calculate that between 25 and 35 percent of girls (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990; Olenick, 2000; Schreck, 2001) and 4 to 16 percent of boys (Characteristics and patterns of at-risk juveniles and factors that contribute to violence committed by or against juveniles, 1999; Finkelhor et al., 1990; Rosenberg, 2001; Schreck, 2001) have been sexually victimized before they turn 18 years old. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to acquaintance rape, as 8 to 12 percent of high school-aged girls reported being forced by dates or boyfriends into unwanted sexual activity (Portner, 1997) while Himelein, Vogel, and Wachowiak (1994) found that almost 40 percent of the 330 incoming college female students in their sample reported being sexually victimized at least once in their past dating relationships.

In an effort to curb the potential sexual victimization of their students, many schools currently utilize sexual abuse prevention2 programs in some form. A survey of 400 school districts reported that over 85 percent of districts offered sexual abuse prevention programs in their elementary schools; in 64 percent of these districts, these programs were mandatory (Daro, 1994). The National Youth Victimization Prevention Study found that 67 percent of youth experienced some form of abuse prevention education at school (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995). In addition, as of 1991, over ten U.S. states had mandated school-based abuse prevention programs (Donnelly, 1991). However, the majority of the information about the prevalence of such prevention programs focuses on those in elementary or middle schools. There has been little attempt at public documentation of sexual violence education for teens remains somewhat unknown (Hilton, Harris, Rice, & Krans, 1998); due to this lack of effort, the prevalence of these programs remains largely unknown. This does not mean that there are few programs being presented on the topic to high school students. In fact, most cities and counties in the United States have rape crisis centers that provide sexual assault prevention-education programs to high school students, local and national organizations that provide their own programs3, as well as pre-packaged curricula available to teachers of this age group (Whatley & Trudell, 1989).

As the majority of those conducting these education programs are not those who publish their activities or evaluations of their programs in academic journals (Lonsway, 1996) and researchers studying sexual abuse prevention programs for adolescents have mostly focused their work on college populations, the literature on the programs provided to high school students is sparse. To date, very few programs aimed at this age group have been formally evaluated (Yeater & O'Donohue, 1999).

While the overall findings from the few published evaluations of sexual abuse prevention programs directed at high school students support the effectiveness of these programs in increasing knowledge and shifting attitudes regarding sexual assault, it is unknown whether these findings are applicable to the student population in urban schools. 
Some have argued that economic, racial, and cultural differences may influence both an individual's vulnerability to rape and participant response to rape prevention programs (Barth, Derezotes, & Danforth, 1991; Scott, Lefley, & Hicks, 1993; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998)4. While some published evaluations report demographics of participants, few examine the effect of these variables on the program (Binder & McNiel, 1987; Pacifici, Stoolmiller, & Nelson, 2001). Moreover, most studies either failed to collect or report racial and socio-economic data, had a serious lack of racial diversity, or had too few subjects to aggregate the data and analyze along racial or socio-economic lines.

Background on Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs for Adolescents

Programs for adolescents are generally geared towards "date or acquaintance" rape prevention and typically have a broad range of objectives, including developing risk reduction strategies to prevent students from becoming either victims and offenders, encouraging disclosure of victimization, developing skills to support survivors, and increasing the level of understanding of reporting procedures and available resources for survivors (Brecklin & Forde, 2001; Dunzelman & Lester, 1993; Kershner, 1996; O'Brien, 2001; Pacifici et al., 2001; Rose, 1989; Schewe & O'Donohue, 1993).

Anti-rape education initially emerged from the feminist movement's efforts to combat sexism and violence against women, eventually becoming a stock offering of local rape crisis and crime victim centers. Current prevention programming often maintains a feminist perspective (Fonow, Richardson, & Weemerus, 1992; Lonsway, 1996) based on an analysis that sexual violence is an extension of sex role socialization, gender stereotypes5, and the normalization of sexual aggression (Corcoran, 1992; Feltey et al., 1991; Fonow et al., 1992). Hence, programs often aim to prevent rape by changing these attitudes and beliefs by challenging socio-cultural norms and dispelling rape myths6 (Corcoran, 1992; Fonow et al., 1992; Lonsway & Kothari, 2000).

A more recent approach to "date and acquaintance" rape prevention has been to focus on miscommunication between genders in regards to dating expectations and consent to sexual activity (Corcoran, 1992; Whatley & Trudell, 1989). In addition, rape education programs often aim to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault, to encourage the use of behaviors to reduce the risk of being involved in a sexual assault either as a victim or an offender, to provide knowledge of resources for victims of sexual violence, and to equip students with victim supportive attitudes and skills. In contrast to prevention programs for elementary school students where the child target is viewed only as a past or future victim, programs for adolescents often view their audience as potential victims and "support systems" as well as potential bystanders and perpetrators of sexual abuse (Whatley & Trudell, 1989), and thus often incorporate a number of the above mentioned goals. Programs may be delivered to either single-gender or mixed-gender audiences, depending on the objectives and philosophy of the program, as well as the accessibility of the students.

Programs vary in their approach to the above mentioned objectives (Pacifici et al., 2001) from lecture-style presentations, interactive activities, and role plays to survivor speakers, dramatic performances, and educational videos (Brecklin & Forde, 2001). Generally programs last approximately one class period (45 minutes - 1 hour), but some include multiple sessions over a period of time. Prevention programs in high schools generally occur in a classroom or auditorium setting and thus, in co-educational schools the audience is usually composed of both male and female students. Some believe a mixed-gender audience is a necessary component to rape prevention (Feltey et al., 1991) as both genders are subject to rape mythology and sex role stereotypes in society (Pacifici et al., 2001). Mixed-gender programs also provide opportunities for cross-gender dialogue and may help to decrease feelings of blame that might arise from one gender being targeted for the program (Pacifici et al., 2001).

Findings from Evaluated Programs for High School Students

Although very few sexual abuse prevention education programs for high school students have been evaluated, those that have claimed success have done so on the basis of increased knowledge or attitude changes regarding sexual violence. The majority of these studies rely on quasi-experimental designs with little, if any, follow-up. The following section will briefly describe the four published evaluations of sexual abuse prevention education programs, paying specific attention to their applicability to urban school populations.

The CARE Program, delivered in tenth grade classrooms at three suburban high schools by both a sexual assault nurse examiner and a rape crisis worker, featured discussions around rape scenarios and myths and facts about sexual assault, presentation of ways to reduce the risk of being victimized, and a role play highlighting community support services. Wright, Akers, and Rita (2000) found that the program succeeded in significantly increasing students' knowledge of rape, risk reduction measures, and community support systems. However, demographics breakdown of participants are not reported and the program was only conducted in suburban high schools.

Even studies of programs conducted in an urban setting may not provide information about its effectiveness for the urban student population. Feltey, Ainslie, and Geib (1991) studied the impact of a 45 minute workshop delivered by a YWCA Rape Crisis Program to 14-19 year old students in suburban, urban, and rural high schools focused on gender role socialization and miscommunication as predominant factors in date/acquaintance rape. An analysis of pre-post test scores found that the program decreased the extent to which students' perceived sexual coercion as justifiable and that the students maintained these changes for six weeks following the program. However, while the program was conducted in a variety of types of schools, the post-test measure was administered to the suburban students only. Thus, the impact of the program on urban students remains unknown.

Hilton et al., (1998) did administer a post-test to both urban and rural eleventh grade Canadian students who participated in an hour-long assembly followed by smaller breakout sessions. Results indicated that the program increased their knowledge of sexual abuse concepts and resources (and maintained this increase after six weeks), yet failed to have a measurable impact on date rape attitudes (however, the subjects demonstrated little support for rape supportive attitudes in the pre-test). As the program focused more on knowledge than attitudes, these findings may not be surprising. The assembly consisted of a variety of presenters: a sexual assault counselor detailed the impact of sexual assault, a "men's counselor" shared the signs of abusive relationships, another speaker described options for victims, and a police officer discussed sexual assault laws. Students then attended two one-hour workshops of their choice on a variety of topics, including dating violence and how to help a friend who has been victimized. This study, like many others, does not report the racial or ethnic demographics of the students.

One study that does report the racial breakdown of participants is, not surprisingly, also the most rigorous evaluation of as high school sexual abuse prevention education program to date (Pacifici et al., 2001), as it used both a control and a treatment group, in addition to pre and post-test measures. The "Dating and Sexual Responsibility" multimedia curriculum was administered to suburban tenth graders over three health education class periods. The curriculum included an interactive video story called "The Virtual Date," role plays, discussion, and other participatory activities focusing on the tree topics of "Coercion - what is it?," "Beliefs, Attitudes, and Expectations," and "Refusals and Responses." Results from pre and post survey measures indicated that the program reduced the acceptance of sexual coercion for those initially considered more at risk for involvement in sexual assault. Although racial demographic data was collected, the study failed to examine possible differential impacts of the program for the high majority (86.5 percent) of White students and students of color.

In fact, none of the aforementioned studies considered racial, ethnic, or economic differences. Nor did they examine the program's impact on specific populations of urban school students, students of color, immigrant students or students from poor or working class backgrounds. Most of the evaluated programs were conducted in suburban schools, predominately populated by White, middle and upper-middle class students. In fact, these evaluations fail to even address the possibility that the racial, ethnic, geographic, or economic characteristics of students may impact a program's effectiveness. The one area of "difference" that has been discussed in literature on sexual assault prevention education is gender.

Considerations about Gender

When deciding the type of program to implement in a school, educators may consider the ways in which the gender of their students may impact a program's effectiveness. While many agree that education directed at and including both genders is critical (Feltey et al., 1991; Pacifici et al., 2001), others feel that single-gender efforts are better equipped to address the unique issues of males and females in regards to prevention of sexual violence (Berkowitz, 1992; Lonsway, 1996; Schewe & O'Donohue, 1993). Some researchers have found that not only do males and females enter into programs with different knowledge levels and attitudes, but they also may respond differently to program techniques and styles (Feltey et al., 1991; Hilton et al., 1998; Lonsway, 1996) which lends support to the theory that programs customized to each gender might prove more effective. Lonsway (1996) believes this to be particularly true "because some men are rape perpetrators and many women rape survivors" (p. 232).

Programs for all female audiences most closely mirror the types of programs for elementary school students in the sense that the see their audience as potential victims of sexual violence, not necessarily as potential perpetrators or bystanders. Hence their goal is to develop awareness and skills that would enable young women to prevent being assaulted. These programs commonly utilize awareness raising, decision making skills (e.g. to avoid potentially dangerous situations), assertiveness training and self-defense strategies. While there have not been any published outcome evaluation studies of programs for high school girls, there have been a number of evaluations of programs for college females. A one-hour rape education program for college women was evaluated in a random assignment study and while the program was successful in increasing knowledge about sexual assault, it did not succeed in reducing the incidence of sexual assault (Breitenbecher & Scarce, 1999). Another study of a prevention program for college women (Hanson & Gidycz, 1993) found the program effective in decreasing incidence of sexual assault for women who had not previously been sexually assaulted, but not for those with past victimization. Other studies of college and adult populations indicate that women gained an increased sense of awareness, confidence, independence and assertiveness from self-defense programs, but did not demonstrate that these programs actually reduce the prevalence of sexual assault (Gidycz et al., 2001; Yeater & O'Donohue, 1999).

Many of these programs and their accompanying evaluations directed their prevention tactics toward violence from strangers. However, the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) and whether the skills imparted by the stranger focused programs are transferable to situations where the perpetrator is someone known to the victim has not yet been investigated.

Many do not consider these self-defense type programs to be true rape prevention (Feltey et al., 1991; Lonsway, 1996; McCall, 1993; Whatley & Trudell, 1989) since even if they are effective, they merely reduce an individual women's risk of being assaulted. Lonsway (1996) and Whatley and Trudell (1989) label these personal safety and self-defense programs as "rape deterrence" or "rape avoidance" as opposed to rape prevention. Rape 'prevention' must actually prevent rape and as such, must be directed at potential perpetrators and should, according to Lonsway (1996), address "the primary cause of rape itself - men's motivation to rape" (p. 236). Prevention efforts without this component place the responsibility for stopping rape solely on the potential victims 
(Corcoran, 1992; Feltey et al., 1991; McCall, 1993; Whatley & Trudell, 1989).

As the statistics indicate that males are the overwhelming perpetrators of sexual assaults (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), programs directed at male only audiences have been developed to put the responsibility for stopping rape on the shoulders of these potential perpetrators. As such, they are based on the premise that men must understand their responsibility to prevent sexual violence and to accept 'no' for an answer during a potential sexual encounter (Whatley & Trudell, 1989). In addition, these all male programs often include a focus on the ability to empathize with victims of sexual violence (Berg, Lonsway, & Fitzgerald, 1999; Lonsway, 1996) and the examination of gender role socialization (Corcoran, 1992). These programs rely on the assumption that males may be more willing to share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences about sexual assault with other men than they would in a mixed-gender group (Brecklin & Forde, 2001). In order to counteract an element of defensiveness identified among some young male participants in rape prevention programs, many programs aim to adopt a non-confrontational approach (Lonsway & Kothari, 2000).

To date, no evaluations have been published of male-only programs for high school-aged participants. While a meta-analysis of 11 evaluations of sexual assault prevention programs for college students found that these programs were successful in reducing rape-myth acceptance in males, only some of the programs evaluated were with male only audiences (Flores & Hartlaub, 1998). Another meta-analysis of evaluations of rape-prevention programs designed for college students (Brecklin & Forde, 2001) indicated that male participants in all male audiences were significantly more likely to reduce their rape-supportive attitudes compared to men in mixed-gender audiences. Results from other studies involving college men are inconclusive, some finding a change in attitudes following the program in the desired direction, others finding no change, and some even finding changes in the undesirable direction (Lonsway, 1996; Yeater & O'Donohue, 1999).

Most sexual violence prevention education programs for adolescents and young adults, whether aimed at mixed-gender, all female, or all male audiences, consistently position females only as potential victims and males only as potential, if not probable, perpetrators. Lonsway (1996) and most other published authors reviewed in this paper 
(Feltey et al., 1991) fail to acknowledge that males are also survivors of sexual violence, perpetrated by authority figures, relatives, strangers, peers, and opposite or same sex partners7. In a society where females are always presumed victims and males are always presumed to be perpetrators of sexual violence (Grenier, 1998; Manzano, 1998; Social and cultural perceptions of male sexual assault), male victims may face additional trauma if they choose to speak out. Thus, it is no surprise that male victims are even less likely to report or disclose sexual assault than females (Manzano, 1998). A male survivor of sexual assault by another man expressed his frustration in searching for help when he found that "Everything was in the female pronoun, everything was about 'when a woman is raped by a man'." (Grenier, 1998, p. 4) Any program that ignores or dismisses the experience of male survivors not only risks alienating these often forgotten victims, but actually serves to perpetuate some of the very rape myths these programs aim to debunk (i.e. 'men cannot be victims of sexual violence'). By not including male victims the program also misses an opportunity to counteract the reputation of rape prevention programs as "male bashing." In addition, the view of females as potential "innocent" victims and males as potential sexual aggressors reifies the societal expectation of male sexual aggression that many rape prevention advocates believe to contribute to the cultural climate that accounts for the existence of rape, "the messages aimed at young women to learn to say no to presumably unwanted sexual activity is based on the presumption that young men will inevitably pressure them." (Whatley & Trudell, 1989, p. 180) Ironically, many school-based sexual abuse prevention programs for secondary students aim to challenge traditional sex roles while at the same time perpetuating these gender stereotypes.

Considerations about Victims of Same-Sex Assaults and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students

If the inclusion of male survivors serves to combat gender stereotypes then the acknowledgement of same-sex assaults and lesbian, gay and bisexual victims would truly problematize the traditional view of gender roles and sexual violence. As one web-site for male survivors explained:

If there is a war between the sexes, then lesbians and gay men can be viewed as conscientious objectors. They undermine the sexist model, by opting out, by refusing to cooperate with it. Heterosexism and homophobia are responses to this threat, and sexual assault of lesbians and gay men is one means of projecting heterosexist control. (Social and cultural perceptions of male sexual assault)

Not only is the inclusion of non-heterosexual victims and same-sex assaults valuable in its ability to challenge the traditional gender dichotomy, such inclusion is necessary because the reality of youths' experience of sexual violence is not limited to the traditional heterosexual male perpetrator - heterosexual female victim assaults. In the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women study, Tjaden and Thoenees (1998) found that approximately 11 percent of female victims were assaulted by other females while 86 percent of men were victimized by other men. In addition, male and female students in same-sex relationships are estimated to experience the same amount of sexual violence within these relationships as do their heterosexual peers. Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals may also be assaulted by members of the other sex in addition to their same-sex dates or partners (Scarce, 1997; Tallmer, ; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Contrary to the rhetoric of the popular culture, adolescent females can, and do, albeit rarely, sexually assault their male peers (Manzano, 1998; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Individuals may also be targeted for sexual assault as a hate or bias crime based on their real or perceived sexual or gender identity8 (Scarce, 1997).

In cases of same-sex assault and sexual assault of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, homophobia becomes a powerful force in obscuring, minimizing, and denying the reality of their experience; also, victims are often re-victimized if they speak out and/or seek help (Jacobson, 1997; Scarce, 1997; Social and cultural perceptions of male sexual assault). Yet not one of the published evaluations of sexual assault prevention programs in this review discussed the inclusion of same-sex assaults on non-heterosexual survivors, or examined the impact of these prevention programs on gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered youth. If the programs for adolescents and young adults present an overwhelmingly heterosexual focus of date and acquaintance rape conceptualizing victims as female and perpetrators as male, how do they affect youth whose experiences with dating, sex, or sexual assault are with those of the same sex? It is quite possible to imagine that these adolescents may feel further alienated by a program designed to help them with these issues.

What Does (and Doesn't) an "Effective" Program Effect?

Based upon the previously discussed evaluations, the ability of programs to raise awareness or dispel myths about sexual assault is encouraging, however no study has examined the impact of these programs on high schoolers' actual behavior or rates of sexual violence. While common sense supports the concept that attitude change will lead to behavior change, this link is relatively unexplored by the current evaluation literature (Gidycz et al., 2001; Lonsway et al., 1998; Pacifici et al., 2001; Yeater & O'Donohue, 1999) and has been challenged in other realms of prevention education (Kirp, Good, & Sandhu, 2001).

However, rape prevention programs generally aim to do a great deal more than prevent future occurrences of sexual violence. They may serve as a catalyst for survivors to disclose their victimization either to the criminal justice system, rape crisis centers, or a loved one. They seek to assure survivors that they are not alone and that if they were assaulted it was not their fault. Programs may inform participants about the possible emotional and physical consequences of sexual assaults, which may empower survivors to seek medical or psychological services. However, with some exceptions (Hazzard, Webb, Kleemeier, Angert, & Pohl, 1991; MacIntyre & Carr, 1999; Oldfield, 1996; Wolfe, MacPherson, Blount, & Wolfe, 1986; Wright, Akers, & Rita, 2000), most evaluations only assess knowledge, beliefs, or attitudes as they relate to the prevention of sexual violence. Other secondary goals of rape prevention programs, such as encouraging past and future victims to seek assistance; decreasing the self-blame, isolation, and shame of victims; and empowering participants with information and skills to serve as effective support people to those who have been victimized are virtually ignored by current evaluation literature.


Clearly, further research is needed to better determine the components of an effective program for high school students as well as how various student populations are affected. Currently, the information on sexual abuse prevention-education provides little guidance to educators in urban schools who are seeking to select and implement sexual assault prevention programs.

The responses of different types of students to sexual abuse prevention programs have been sorely under examined. Not only did the majority of studies not report an analysis of racial, ethnic, or socio-economic differences but most studies had such homogenous populations that an analysis would have been virtually impossible. This greatly compromises the generalizability of the conclusions from these studies.

The National Youth Victimization Prevention Study (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995) found that African-American and poorer students benefited from victimization prevention programs; its researchers saw this as a positive sign that these type of programs may impact those who many schools find difficult to reach. Yet, the lack of information on how prevention programs affect poor and minority adolescents is unacceptable. Certainly, studies which examine the effectiveness of sexual abuse programs in poor, urban schools are necessary. Unfortunately, until the effects of these programs on poor youth, youth of color, and immigrant students are deemed important, studies will most likely continue to concentrate on middle-class, White, suburban or rural populations.

In a time when many urban schools are engaging in reform initiatives and facing immense pressure to improve students' academic achievement, sexual assault prevention may unfortunately fall by the wayside. Yet, these urban schools are also responding to the call to make their schools safe and free of violence. Districts continue to receive and spend violence prevention grants, such as Title IV (Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. If they choose to put portions of these monies towards sexual abuse prevention-education programs, schools must have the information to make purposeful choices that will allow them accomplish their goals.

Until further research is available on the impact of the sexual assault prevention program on various student populations, this literature review and points for consideration may serve to guide those interested in providing education programs to urban high school students as a means of preventing sexual assault. This discussion should have raised some important questions for educators in urban high schools to consider, and perhaps will serve as a call-to-action for researchers and program evaluators to investigate the impact of sexual abuse prevention-education on urban youth, sexual and gender minority adolescents, and students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.


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1 - For the purpose of this paper the phrase "sexual abuse" is used as a general, overarching term referring to the any of the following (National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information) 

  • Child sexual abuse as defined as any contact with the genitals, breasts, buttocks, anus, or mouth of child under 13 years old, other than for health reasons and developmental needs, any contact of a child under 13 years old to another's genitals, breasts, buttocks, anus, or mouth other than for health reasons, or any activity designed to sexual stimulate a child or under 13 years old any activity with a child designed to sexually stimulate another. This includes rape, sexual assault, fondling, sexually explicit dialogue with a child, child pornography, and child prostitution. (Adapted from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information,
  • The use of physical force, threat of force or coercion to compel a person (child or adolescent) to engage in a sexual act against their will, whether or not the act is completed; and an attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act e.g. illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, due to intimidation or pressure; abusive sexual contact regardless of the age of the perpetrator or of the relationships between the victim and perpetrator. This includes "date/ acquaintance" rape or assault, statutory rape/sexual assault, stranger rape or assault, incest, kissing, fondling, prostitution or involvement in pornography.
  • Sexual activity without the consent of all parties involved. (Adapted from Stein, 1999)

2 - For this discussion "prevention" will refer to both primary and secondary prevention efforts, that is, both the prevention of sexual abuse of youth and also the facilitation of disclosure, reporting, and recovery of child and adolescent victims. 

3 - For example, Campus Outreach Services, Inc, ( and Empower (

4 - The National Violence Against Women Survey (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998) found significant differences between the percentage of adult women reporting having been raped in their lifetime based on ethnicity (18.8 percent of African-Americans, 17.7 percent of Whites, 14.6 percent Hispanic, 6.8 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 34.1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, 24.4 percent mixed race). How much of the differences stem from actual differences in prevalence or from differences in willingness to report the crime is unknown. 

5 - Such socialization behaviors include: disrespect of females, sexual aggression among males, female sexual passivity, and peer pressure among males to be sexually active and among females to be more cautious about engaging in sex (Feltey, Ainslie, & Geib, 1991). 

6 - Examples of common rape myths addressed by sexual assault prevention programs include the following: most victims are raped by strangers, males cannot be raped, women 'ask for it' by their dress or behavior, the reason most rapists commit rape is a desire for sex.

7 - It is estimated that between 5 to 10 percent of adult rape victims are men (Scarce, 1997) and that 4 to 16 percent of boys have been sexually abused (Characteristics and patterns of at-risk juveniles and factors that contribute to violence committed by or against juveniles, 1999; Finkelhor et al., 1990; Rosenberg, 2001; Schreck, 2001) The National Violence Against Women Survey found that 3 percent of U.S. men had experienced an attempted or completed rape (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). (It is important to remember that rape statistics do not include sexual assaults other than those involving vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse and thus the number of males experiencing any form of sexual victimization is greater than those who have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.) 

8 - For example, the motion picture "Boys Don't Cry"(Bienen & Bienen, 1999) depicts the true story of Brandon Teena, a female-to-male transgendered adolescent who was brutally raped and murdered by his peers once they discovered that Brandon possessed female genitalia. 

Emily A. Greytak

A former educator and counselor at a rape crisis center, and adviser of University of Pennsylvania's Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape (STAAR), Emily Greytak has been involved in the field of sexual abuse prevention for ten years. Currently a doctoral student in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, her work focuses on school-based programs designed to prevent sexual abuse, dating violence, school crime, harassment, racism, prejudice, and homophobia. Emily serves as the Research and Evaluation Director for tapestry which provides training and resources to professionals on issues of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence, and as the Research Coordinator for Campus Outreach Services, a national organization dedicated to the prevention of sexual violence. Emily also teaches courses on race, ethnicity and gender in the Sociology Department at Temple University.