Empirically Assessing the Effectiveness of The Pathways Programme: An Online Self-Help Intervention for Male Sexual Aggression at UK Universities

Samuel T. Hales, Caitlyn Rawers, Theresa A. Gannon

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Abstract

Though contemporary evidence suggests that upwards of one-in-nine UK male university students engage in sexually violent behaviors (Hales and Gannon in Sexual Abuse 34:744–770, 2022), few evidence-based primary prevention strategies have been developed to prevent their perpetration. To help contribute to this evidence gap, this study evaluated the short and longer-term effectiveness of a novel psychoeducation-based online self-help intervention for university male sexual aggression called The Pathways Programme. Designed around current empirical understanding of university-based sexual harm in the UK, the program contains six modules that correspond with known risk factors for perpetration. Data were collected as part of a randomized control trial from 254 self-identified heterosexual male students enrolled at a UK university who reported a proclivity towards sexual aggression. Results showed that participants who took part in the program displayed moderate reductions in their self-perceived likelihood of sexual aggression (our primary treatment target) across testing points, as well as reductions in their self-reported levels of hostility towards women, rape myth acceptance, and problematic sexual fantasies (our secondary treatment targets). Control participants also displayed reductions in some domains over time, albeit to a lesser degree. Additional analyses probed the factors associated with participant drop-out, clinical and reliable change, and user feedback. Overall, our study provides preliminary evidence for the efficacy of The Pathways Programme at reducing UK university males’ risk of sexual aggression; however, we caution readers that more robust evaluation is necessary to support intervention rollout. We discuss our findings alongside the limitations of our study and provide suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1394
Number of pages18
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Volume53
Issue number4
Early online date5 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 5 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • sexual aggression
  • harm prevention
  • higher education
  • self-help interventions
  • sexual violence
  • Higher education
  • Sexual violence
  • Self-help interventions
  • Sexual aggression
  • Harm prevention

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