Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Amy E. Naugle

Second Advisor

Dr. C. Richard Spates

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Gaynor

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Zoann K. Snyder


Sexually aggressive behavior, especially on college campuses, is an issue of major concern. Previous research has found that 54% of college women report being sexually victimized (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). Given the scope of this problem, effective prevention strategies are necessary. Sexual assault prevention programs have included those targeting a mixed gender audience as well as gender specific programs. Research examining the effectiveness of these programs, at both post-intervention and follow-up, have provided mixed results.

The goal of the current study was to examine the effectiveness of a video-based sexual assault education program in decreasing rape myths, increasing victim empathy, and reducing attraction to sexual aggression among college men. In addition, the project explored variables that may predict the effectiveness of these programs, using both a within and across groups experimental design. The video-based intervention utilized for this study has demonstrated effectiveness (O'Donohue, Yeater, & Fanetti, 2003). The current study aimed to provide additional evidence to support previous work, and to expand the investigation of the impact of the intervention.

A total of 49 male undergraduate students participated in the study and all enrolled participants received the video-based intervention; however, a pre-delay control condition was used. The effectiveness of the sexual assault education program was assessed using measures of rape myth acceptance, empathy, and attraction to sexual aggression. Variables hypothesized to influence the effectiveness of the program were hypermasculinity, psychopathic traits, and alexithymia.

Results indicated that the video-based sexual assault education program was effective in decreasing participant's attraction to sexual aggression and increasing participant's rejection of rape myths and victim empathy. The program was also effective at reducing participants' self-reported likelihood to force a woman to do something sexual that she does not want to do. Hypermasculinity, alexithymia, and psychopathy predicted change in empathy scores from pre- to post-intervention as measured by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1980).

Implications for understanding the complex role of empathy, both general and victim specific, in the prevention of sexually aggressive behavior are discussed, as are the roles of hypermasculinity and rape myth acceptance in the commission of sexually aggressive behavior.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access