Bystander intervention to prevent sexual violence: The overlooked role of bystander alcohol intoxication

Ruschelle M. Leone, Michelle Haikalis, Dominic J. Parrott, David DiLillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Objectives: Bystander training is a promising form of sexual violence (SV) prevention that has proliferated in recent years. Though alcohol commonly accompanies SV, there has been little consideration of the potential impact of bystander alcohol intoxication on SV prevention. The aims of this commentary are to provide an integrative framework for understanding the proximal effect of alcohol on SV intervention, provide recommendations to spark novel research, and guide the application of research to bystander programming efforts. Method: This commentary begins with a review of existing bystander training programs and the need to target alcohol use and misuse in these programming efforts. Next, pertinent alcohol and bystander theories and research are drawn to develop a framework for the proximal effect of alcohol on SV intervention. Results: The well-established decision-making model of bystander behavior (Latané & Darley, 1970) and alcohol myopia theory (Steele & Josephs, 1990) are used to identify potential barriers to SV intervention that may be created or exacerbated by alcohol use. Additionally, the ways in which alcohol may facilitate intervention are discussed. Conclusions: Specific recommendations are made for elucidating the relationship between alcohol and bystander behavior and testing the impact of alcohol at each level of the presented framework. Methodological and analytic concerns are discussed, including the need for more multimethod studies. Recommendations to guide the application of the present framework to SV prevention programming efforts are provided, and consider how the proximal effects of alcohol impact intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-647
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Alcohol myopia
  • Bystander effect
  • Prevention
  • Sexual aggression
  • Sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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