Calhoun, K.S., University of Georgia, USA
Violence against women is a global problem of major proportions. It takes many forms, including physical and sexual assault, sexual harassment in the workplace, genital mutilation, and mass rape as a tactic of war. Millions of women worldwide are subjected to violence, with resulting devastating impact on the individual, her family, and society as a whole. The psychological, economic, and health impacts are very high. Psychologists have worked to study the scope of the problem and the psychological consequences, and are developing effective treatment approaches and prevention programs. An example of a risk reduction program for sexual assault will be presented. It is aimed at helping women who have been sexually victimized previously, which studies show increases the risk of further victimization as much as six times. It teaches women to recognize risks in their own lives and gives them skills they can use in combating the risks. Compared to a matched control group, the program was effective in significantly reducing rates of revictimization, and these gains were maintained over a one-year period. Some of the major predictors of revictimization were frequency and severity of previous assaults, and self- efficacy. Self-efficacy, which increased significantly following the program, was the strongest predictor. While the solution to the immense problem of sexual violence will require changes on a societal scale, the results of this brief program demonstrate that women can be empowered to act on their own behalf as well.