Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Lindsay Ham

Committee Member

Ana Bridges

Second Committee Member

Lauren Quetsch


bystander intervention, consequences, effectiveness, qualitative, sexual assault


Bystander intervention programs aim to reduce the acceptance of violence against women by fostering prosocial behavior from community members, and often provide knowledge on behaviors associated with sexual risk and ways a bystander can intervene. However, there is limited knowledge on which intervention strategies are used, and how these interventions impact perpetrator behavior and incidence of verbal and physical harm to those involved. There is even less research on these phenomena from the perspective of the victim. To address these gaps, the current study utilized a qualitative approach to (1) identify bystander intervention strategies employed; (2) discuss trends of the presence of certain strategies as it relates to the perpetrator’s behavior being unchanged, paused, or stopped towards the victim at the event-level; and (3) examine general trends between the presence of strategies and verbal and physical harm from the perspective of the victimized individual. Adult women between the ages of 18 to 30 (N = 25, college student = 80%) were interviewed about their experiences of bystander intervention during an unwanted sexual interaction since the age of 16 years old. Results suggested that: (1) distance, direct, distract, delegate, and proximity strategies were identified by victims of sexual harassment and assault; (2) distance or direct strategies were most frequently present when the perpetrator’s behavior was stopped towards the victim at the event-level; (3) the incidence rate of verbal and physical harm, though low, occurred more frequently when a direct or distance strategy was involved. Because distance and direct strategies most frequently mentioned overall in the stories, further research is needed to disentangle whether these strategies are more effective at thwarting sexual assault or related to harms than other strategies or just employed more often. Future research should attempt to replicate and extend the present findings in a larger and more diverse sample.