A growing body of research has documented the alarmingly high rates among high school youth of dating aggression, defined as physical, sexual, or psychological aggression that happens between current or former dating partners, and sexual aggression, defined as any unwanted sexual behavior, ranging from sexual contact to completed rape, that can occur between any individuals regardless of whether they are or have been in a relationship. Dating and sexual aggression often co-occur (for example, someone who perpetrates physical dating aggression is also more likely to perpetrate sexual aggression toward an acquaintance), and, since they share many of the same etiological risk factors, are often examined together in research and targeted concurrently in prevention programming. Research documents the deleterious consequences associated with dating and sexual aggression, and these consequences underscore the critical importance of developing and implementing evidence-based dating and sexual aggression prevention efforts for adolescents.
One type of prevention effort that has been recognized as a critical component to dating and sexual aggression programming is bystander intervention education and training. Such programs help participants develop behaviors that aid in the prevention of dating and sexual aggression and assist in victims' recovery from dating and sexual aggression experiences. In order to address bystander intervention in programming efforts, it is important to understand the factors that facilitate or hinder bystander intervention. However, there is little research focusing on dating and sexual aggression bystander intervention among high school youth. The current study examined this gap in the literature by administering surveys and conducting focus groups with 218 high school youth from three high schools in New England (one rural, two urban).