Summary of features for effective bystander approaches

From the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation report “Review of bystander approaches in support of preventing violence against women”

Bystander strategies as part of a broader approach: There is strong evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of multi-level, mutually reinforcing strategies for prevention. Bystander strategies will be most effective when they exist as one component of a broader approach or of a multi-level program in one setting.

Theory-based program development: There is growing evidence to show the importance of grounding prevention program development in sound and testable theoretical rationales that make transparent the presumed link between program activities and the intended outcomes.

Community engagement: Involving community members and organizations as partners in identifying targets for change and designing strategies is important for creating sustainable programs based on community commitment and participation.

Gender-sensitive design: The application of gendered analysis to program design and development will ensure the program strategies and outcomes are appropriate for boys, girls, women, and men and that they attend to the particular needs and experiences of each grouping. One aspect of this may be the development of specifically tailored strategies to engage men and boys.

Contextualized programming: There is increasing concern within the broader literature regarding the importance of tailoring programs to specific contexts and communities, rather than attempting to simply replicate programs in new settings. Prevention strategies must take into account the localized norms and structural issues that may be relevant to violence prevention.

Comprehensive program development: Longer interventions (across multiple sessions) are more effective than short (one-off) interventions, and in-depth coverage of a smaller range of topics is found to be more effective than shallow coverage of a large range of topics (further supporting the need for multiple sessions where multiple topics can be covered).

Skilled and supported program facilitators: Professional educators and/or program facilitators are found to be most effective. Where peer educators are used, they must be adequately trained and supported in their prevention role.

Mix of single-sex and mixed-sex program delivery: There is evidence to suggest that while mixed sex groups appear to result in greater attitudinal change for women then single-sex groups, single sex groups appear more effective for changing behavioral intentions. By contrast, for male participants, there is some evidence to suggest that mixed-sex groups are more effective for changes to men’s behavior intentions. In other words, there is evidence to support a mixture of single-sex sessions and mixed-sex sessions across education-based programming.

Incorporation of evaluation: There is also a concern in the literature that the effects of violence-prevention programs may fade over time, highlighting the continued importance of evaluation at various intervals before, immediately after, short term (3-6 months) and long term (12+ months) following participation in prevention programs. Evaluation may demonstrate changes at the individual as well as community or organizational levels.