[Proposal] Exploring how sexual minority persons intervene during sexual assault situations


Sexual assault is a pervasive problem for sexual minority persons (SMP) 1–4 or people who identify as bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer; and/or have same gender sexual partners. 5 Experiencing a sexual assault is associated with myriad of negative health consequences .6,7 A preventive mechanism for sexual assault is training third parties, or bystanders, to intervene when they see high-risk sexual situations. 8–11 Yet, one of the most concerning aspects of bystander training programs is their lack of inclusivity for SMP. 12 Indeed, bystander intervention programs, and the formative science upon which they are based, 8,13–15 focus solely on preventing male-female sexual assaults 10,16–18 and are not as effective for reducing sexual assaults among SMP. 19 This is not surprising given that there is no current research on SMP willingness or confidence to engage in bystander behavior—two key predictors of bystander intervention that are targeted in training programs. 8,20 Further, how SMP act when they witness high-risk sexual situations within their community or what barriers prevent them from acting is unclear. 19,27 Thus, to inform tailored prevention programs and ultimately prevent sexual assaults among SMP, understanding how SMP bystander attitudes, behaviors, and barriers differ from their heterosexual counterparts is an essential next step to drive the field forward.

Research Goals:

The overarching goal of this mixed-method project is to assess the facilitators and barriers to SMP bystander behaviors and to determine whether these differ from heterosexually identified people. Additionally, researchers find that women tend to be more willing and confident to engage in bystander behaviors more than men. 8,21,22 Thus, an additional goal of this project is to examine the intersection of gender and SM identity on bystander attitudes and behaviors.

We propose the following aims:

Aim 1: Examine SMP willingness, confidence, and barriers to bystander behavior.

Aim 2: Examine if and how SMP are intervening when they witness questionable sexual situations.

Aim 3 : Examine the intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes of SMP bystander behaviors (e.g., if they felt negative or positive about intervention; people responded negatively or positively to intervention).

Aim 4: Compare SMP and heterosexually identified people’s willingness, confidence, barriers, bystander behaviors, and consequences to determine potential group differences.

Aim 5: Examine the intersection of gender and SM identity on people’s willingness, confidence, bystander behaviors, and consequences of bystander intervention.


We will recruit 1000 SMP and 1000 heterosexually identified people (50% women) through Prolific. We selected this sample size because (1) prior research on bystander intervention is limited by small and homogenous sample sizes, 8,18,23–25 (2) a large sample is needed due to low base-rates of bystander opportunity/behavior in prior research 26 and (3) the paucity of research with SMP and bystander constructs requires a larger sample size to inform tailored bystander training programs for SMP. 19,27 Prior to implementation, a pilot test of the survey will be conducted.

Participants will answer several demographics (e.g., age, SM identity) and measures about their willingness 19 and confidence 8 to engage in prosocial bystander behaviors as well as assessing potential barriers.

Participants will complete a series of questions about potential bystander situations. Participants will be asked if they have ever witnessed a questionable sexual situation (e.g., someone touching another person/making them uncomfortable). Those that have will describe the contextual factors about the situations they have witnessed (e.g., who was involved, where, when the event took place) and whether they became involved. If they did not, participants will be asked why they did not become involved. If participants report intervening, they will be asked why they chose to act and to describe what they did. Following these questions, participants will complete a final assessment on the positive and negative consequences of their intervention. 28

Proposed Analyses

Our analyses are as followed:

Aim 1 and 3: Examine descriptive statistics (correlations, frequencies, mean) of SMP willingness, confidence, barriers, bystander behavior, and consequences to bystander behaviors.

Aim 2: Because reasons for intervention and barriers are elicited through open-ended items, we will conduct a thematic analysis for both SMP and heterosexual people. The lead author will review a subsample of responses (20%) and develop a list of themes and subthemes into a codebook. 29 The second author will review and provide feedback for the developed codebook. The authors will then pilot the codebook with 20% of responses and discuss any discrepancies or adjustments needed. Once the pilot analysis is completed, the authors will code all responses. The authors will then assess interrater reliability using Cohen’s Kappa; a kappa value above 0.70 suggest strong reliability amongst coders. 30,31

Aim 4: Using Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) we will examine if SM women and men differ in their willingness, confidence, and consequences to bystander behaviors. We will qualitatively examine (examining themes) if bystander intervention is similar or different across the two groups.

Aim 5: Using MANOVA we will examine the intersection of SM identity (SM vs. heterosexual) and gender (women v. men) on participants willingness, confidence, and consequences to bystander behaviors. We will qualitatively examine if bystander intervention is similar or different across the four groups.


We are requesting $12,666.68 in credit based on Prolific’s costing tool for a 30-minute survey with our predetermined screener variables. Participants will be reimbursed for their time at $9.50 per hour.

Data and Dissemination

Study protocol and all materials will be available on Open Science Framework (OSF) measures, preregistered data, analysis syntax, coding protocols, and outputs). We plan to submit these findings for publication, present them at conferences, and share them with the larger community via social media to increase awareness about bystander behaviors and barriers among SMP.

Expected Contribution and Impact

SMP are at elevated risk to experience sexual assault 1–4 and myriad consequences post assault. 6,7 While there is nationwide attention on male-to-female sexual assault, far less attention is focused on SMP who are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault. If researchers and educators aim to develop programming that prevents sexual assault, then formative work that is inclusive of SMP is urgently needed. This research is the first step in developing more comprehensive programming to prevent sexual assaults.

Thank you for reading our proposal!
Tiffany Marcantonio and Dr. Ruschelle Leone
Indiana University & Georgia State University


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