Cox, Nadia (2021) Creating an Information-Sharing Programme to Improve Societal Attitudes Towards Victims of Sexual Violence. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Sexual assault and rape are prevalent worldwide. Within the UK alone, it is estimated that 2.9% (618,000) women and 0.7% (177,000) men were sexually assaulted between April 2019 and March 2020 (ONS, 2020). Many people who experience sexual violence are not only harmed by the assault but are also subjected to secondary victimisation by the people to whom they turn for help. That is, survivors’ disclosures of sexual victimisation are often met with a myriad of unhelpful negative responses that can compound their recovery in the aftermath of sexual victimisation. While educational programmes have been developed to help prevent sexual violence and to challenge such negative bias against survivors of sexual violence, much of this has focused on the American college context. Consequently, there is little empirical evidence to inform the development of interventions suited to the UK context. Additionally, the development of very few of the existing programmes have been informed by survivors’ input which is essential given that they are the primary intended beneficiaries and those most likely to be harmed by ill-conceived interventions. To bridge this gap this study was undertaken to develop a new information-sharing programme to raise public awareness about sexual victimisation with the aim of enhancing attitudes towards survivors and hence improving responses to their disclosures. The study involved four phases in the production of the programme; identification of the potential content and format was informed through a review of the literature and focus group discussions with twenty-nine UK university students. In response to one of the key findings from the focus groups, interviews were conducted with survivors about their experiences of disclosing which both aided the refinement of the programme content, ensured that the intended programme was appropriate and provided narratives of lived experiences of secondary victimisation. Finally, the refined programme was subjected to a preliminary outcome evaluation utilising an experimental study employing mixed methods of data collection. Thematic analysis and content analysis were employed to analyse and code the qualitative data, and an ANCOVA was used to analyse the quantitative data. The hypothesis being that participants who were exposed to the educational programme would demonstrate a reduction in rape myth acceptance in comparison to the non-exposed control group. Overall, no significant effects were evident from the quantitative analysis, however, thematic analysis of the qualitative feedback suggests that programme exposure led to increased understanding about the different contexts and potential victims of sexual assault, about the scale of the problem and increased victim-empathy.

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