Two public health graduate students use laughs to teach sexual assault prevention

In the era of #MeToo, college campuses are a prime place to be having conversations about sexual assault prevention. But often students lack the proper knowledge or training on how to go about it.

Now, University of Georgia students can access a short, entertaining video that shows how to prevent sexual assault safely.

The video, “The Campus Vibe: Preventing Sexual Assault,” was created by UGA College of Public Health doctoral students Anne Marie Schipani and Jared Jashinsky, funded by an American Public Health Association grant aimed at supporting student health work in their community.

About one in four college women are sexually assaulted during their time on campus, and it’s estimated that 59 percent of those incidents go unreported. Training students to safely intervene in risky situations is a proven method to prevent sexual assault, says Schipani, whose doctoral research focuses on sexual violence prevention.

Through a series of jokes and skits put on in the style of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the video takes viewer through the four D’s of the ‘bystander model’ — direct, distract, delegate, and delay.

“These principles have been used effectively in a bunch of different interventions,” said Schipani because they foster a sense of community that encourages students to take care of each other in a situation that could lead to sexual violence.

The goal of the video, says Jashinsky, was to relay information through entertainment. “That way, they don’t turn off the video because they’re genuinely enjoying themselves.”

Both he and Schipani have had experience with script writing and creating videos using principles of entertainment education.

“It’s the idea of bringing people in instead of tuning out. If the video is more didactic, people are not going to pay attention to that content, so we really wanted it to be funny and engaging,” added Schipani.

That’s why they decided to partner with on-campus comedy group Improv Athens to workshop the original script to hone in on jokes that would appeal to a UGA student audience.

“We can write scripts, but we’re not comedians so we wanted to bring in a group that knew what they were doing,” said Schipani.  “I feel like this project is also a testament to how bringing in the target population is such an important part of developing an intervention or video or something for them because you need something that’s going to speak to the group.”

Schipani and Jashinsky are currently planning to widely disseminate the video through on campus government and other advocacy groups. They hope the video will equip students to intervene when a friend, fellow student, or even a stranger needs help.

Lauren Baggett

Posted April 20, 2018.

Additional coverage at ASPPH Friday Letter.