UNH researchers to study efficacy of sexual assault intervention

  • In this photo taken Wednesday April 6, 2016 students walk past the historic Thompson Hall at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. The water system serving the University is among more than two dozen in New Hampshire that have exceeded the federal lead standard at least once in the last three years. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 04, 2017

University of New Hampshire researchers will study whether training college students on how to handle receiving a sexual assault disclosure from a friend helps those survivors recover better.

Sexual assault survivors typically don’t report first to law enforcement or medical personnel, said Katie Edwards, an associate professor of psychology and women’s studies at UNH and the study’s principal investigator. Usually, it’s friends who are “the frontline and really the first responders.”

With help from a three-year $664,117 grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers from UNH and three other universities will test whether training that a person receives can help reduce rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and problem drinking in the survivors who eventually come forward.

Most research about sexual assault interventions are about prevention or treatment. “(This) is unique in that we’re really trying to focus on friends,” Edwards said.

They hope to recruit 900 undergraduates. Researchers will randomly assign some to receive a two-session training and some not to. Training will mix lecture with hands-on learning, where participants will get to role-play through scenarios.

The study will follow-up with participants using surveys. If a friend comes forward to a someone in the study to tell them they’ve experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence, researchers will then reach out to them too.

Researchers picked college students for the study due to high rates of sexual assault and drinking on campuses. Twenty percent of women in college experience rape or attempted rape, Edwards said.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321.)