Evaluating a Self-Determination Approach to a Text Message Intervention for Sexual Violence Prevention
Brickman, Jared Scott
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Sexual assault is an issue that plagues college campuses and results in physical and psychological harm of students. An option becoming more popular today to tackle sexual assault is the use of bystander intervention education like Washington State University’s Green Dot program. All students go through an in-person training, but health practitioners running the intervention worry the skills and confidence gained may decline throughout the first school year. This study tested a text message-based system for keeping students engaged and knowledgeable about the issues of consent and preventing assault through bystander action. Further, the motivational components of self-determination theory, autonomy, competence, and relatedness, were used to guide the messaging of the intervention and to measure outcomes. During the in-person Green Dot trainings, 1,242 students signed up to be a part of the text-message system. Some self-selected into a control group with just surveys while the rest were split into two messaging groups: one that received autonomy-related messages, and the other directive-based. Participants completed three surveys over the course of the semester to see how much their attitudes toward bystander intervention and knowledge of consent changed. Comparing groups at each time point, the results of this study suggest no major differences between groups at pretest. But by the end of the semester, those in the control group had significantly lower feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness than participants in the messaging groups. Although there were no differences for these outcomes between the two messaging strategies, participants in the autonomy group rated their messages as more likeable, said the messaging frequency was less problematic, and they would be more likely to be in a similar intervention in the future. Health practitioners can take the theory-based approach from this study and the methodological insights tied to the platform (e.g. frequency and form) better text-based interventions.