New insights on preventing sexual violence

News from the Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research

November 2, 2021

Carolyn Porta

Carolyn Porta

An interdisciplinary group of University of Minnesota researchers, College of St. Scholastica (CSS) administrators and Men as Peacemakers (MAP) team members partnered with student leaders at both universities to engage in research activities focused on changing campus culture and preventing sexual violence. Since 2018, the Sexual Violence Prevention Collaboratory has conducted community-university partnered research to test a prevention intervention model with college students and to gain insights from students about their partying practices and safety strategies.

MAP, a non-profit community organization, has spent years developing and implementing a comprehensive campus program that showed anecdotal promise, but they lacked the resources to rigorously test the intervention using a rigorous randomized controlled trial study design. Their efforts were discussed among the Collaboratory members and a decision was made to invest time and resources into studying whether their comprehensive campus program was a viable prevention intervention. Around the same time, the University of Minnesota created the President’s Initiative to Address Sexual Misconduct and was investing resources into new initiatives to prevent sexual violence among students.

The team, led by Professor Carolyn Porta, PhD, RN, FAAN, launched two parallel projects. At the University of Minnesota, the team worked with Greek life fraternity and sorority presidents to design and implement a study about their partying practices and safety. The team took time to understand their perspectives and co-created a series of questions that would facilitate their members sharing experiences, concerns and ideas toward solutions. Four focus groups were conducted, separately for fraternity and sorority members, and separately for under and upper class students. The first article summarizing initial findings is published in the Journal of American College Health (2021) and highlights candid ways in which students strive to create or find safe partying environments, as well as missed opportunities for partnership with campus adults and others to strengthen safety and mitigate risks for sexual violence. It is our hope that the experiences of these college students inform national, state and campus efforts to prevent sexual violence; we know that listening to the students who make decisions in the moment is a critical starting point.

The second project took place with students at the College of St. Scholastica. MAP implemented their prevention intervention, the BEST Party Model. The University of Minnesota Collaboratory faculty and staff partnered with CSS and MAP to conduct a randomized controlled trial. Student volunteers were randomly assigned to the intervention or a survey-only condition. This was the first time MAP had undertaken a rigorous research protocol. Study results demonstrated high fidelity in intervention delivery, protocol feasibility and acceptability. Initial results did not yield many significant differences between the study conditions, and our Collaboratory team is exploring the measures and protocol to identify superior outcome measures for future trial use. For more information, contact Porta ( or Katherine Lust ( with any questions about the Collaboratory or these projects.