The Role of Theory in the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Sport.

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Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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Sexual violence (SV) remains at epidemic proportions in the U.S. and growing evidence demonstrates that youth and adults engaged in sport are at increased risk of victimization and perpetration of SV. Unfortunately, sport SV prevention strategies are rarely built on theory or theoretically grounded evidence, despite demonstrated effectiveness of such approaches. This study aimed to answer to questions: 1) Which theories are relevant to the development of effective SV prevention strategies in sport?; and 2) How has theory been incorporated into existing SV prevention literature on sport safety? A scoping review of the literature plus expert input identified 29 theories pertinent to SV prevention in sport. A systemized review of the literature regarding SV prevention in sport resulted in the identification and characterization of 41 published articles. Authors then examined theory's role in prevention literature. This study identified 29 theories pertinent to SV prevention in sports and applicable across the behavioral spectrum. Most theories were rooted in the Behavioral (41%), Situational (24%) or Social/Attitudinal (21%) areas. Less common were theories grounded in Feminist (14%) domains. Theories were predominantly focused at the individual (42%), organizational (29%), and interpersonal (18%) ecological levels. Of the 41 sport prevention articles, 33 (83%) referred to a theory either explicitly or implicitly. Though most theories have been incorporated into prevention efforts, closer examination indicates that the majority were descriptive, unlikely to use a sophisticated methodology (10%; e.g., experimental, quasi-experimental), and rarely intended to assess a specific prevention program/strategy or policy (21%). Strong theoretical foundations are available for SV prevention research focused on sports, and their application appears to show value across the developmental spectrum of athletes. There remains a need for greater focus on theory-driven research intended to develop prevention strategies and policies designed to enhance athlete safety.


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