Sarah Meiser

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Rebecca Smith

LC Subjects

Bystander effect; College students--Psychological aspects; Rape--Social aspects; Rape--Attitudes


Sexual violence is a serious problem on college campuses, and research indicates that bystander intervention is one way to reduce rates of violence. This quantitative study analyzed survey data (N = 696) from a small, private, religiously affiliated university on the West Coast of the U.S. to explore the relationship between values and bystander intervention behavior in incidents of college sexual assault. Survey data included the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey (2019) with additional questions about personal, peer, and institutional values adapted from the Character Education Values and Practices Inventory (CEVPI, Chen, 2005). Data analysis revealed that the majority of participants who observed an incident of sexual assault (67%, n = 68) intervened to help the victim. Additionally, in active and potential incidents of sexual assault, bystander intervention rates were similar (66%, n = 35 for active sexual assaults, 67%, n = 67 for potential sexual assaults). On average, bystanders used two intervention strategies during both types of incidents to help the victim, with the most common intervention strategy being asking if the victim needed help. Additional analysis revealed that women were significantly more likely than men to involve others as an intervention strategy (p = .034), and men appeared to be more likely than women to confront the perpetrator, with marginal significance (p = .056). Findings related to values revealed that the top personal value was compassionate (47%), top peer value was respectful (31%), and top value promoted by the institution was faithful (39%). Men and women had statistically significant (p < .05) differences in their selected top personal values for 10 of the 42 values. Greater intervention in a sexual assault situation was associated with the personal value of compassionate (p = .039), the peer values of committed (p = .009) and/or responsible (p = .049), and the institutional values of devout (p = .030) and/or persevering (p = .027). This study highlights the need to continue sexual assault prevention education and bystander intervention training on college campuses. Furthermore, this study indicates that understanding the role values play in bystander intervention may provide opportunities to create stronger pro-social campus communities.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.