Effects of bystander sexual assault prevention programs on promoting intervention skills and combatting the bystander effect: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Criminology




Objectives: Bystander sexual assault prevention programs encourage individuals to intervene when witnessing incidents or warning signs of violence. According to a popular skill acquisition model, witnesses to sexual assault must demonstrate the following to intervene: (1) notice the event, (2) identify the situation as warranting intervention, (3) take responsibility for acting, and (4) know strategies for helping. Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis examined effects of bystander programs on the aforementioned skills and actual intervention behavior among adolescents and college students. Results: Robust variance estimation meta-analysis using a sample of 19 studies (N = 7920) revealed significant effects on identifying situations as warranting intervention and non-significant effects on noticing events, taking responsibility for acting, and knowing strategies for helping. Programs had a significant favorable effect on intervention behavior. Conclusions: Findings cast uncertainty around the proposed relationship between skills and intervention behavior. Future research should explore this relationship through causal modeling.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Campbell Collaboration


Bystander, Meta-analysis, Prevention, Sexual assault


Child and Adolescent Development