Principal Co-Investigators:
Jane Bost, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Pomeroy, Ph.D.
Pamela Cook
Geeta Cowlagi


The ultimate goal of this research project is to conduct an empirically based, ground breaking pilot study of the efficacy of the use of improvisational peer theatre techniques in changing students’ attitudes and behaviors with respect to interpersonal violence. The primary objective of the proposed study is to examine the effectiveness of peer-led improvisational theatre presentations depicting scenarios of interpersonal violence to positively affect attitudinal and behavioral changes among undergraduate college students. A secondary objective is to examine the educational experience for students enrolled in the Voices Against Violence (VAV) peer theatre class who will be presenting the improvisational theatre performances.


Although rape prevention education programs have been in existence since the 1980s, there has been little research into their effectiveness (Lonsway, 1996; Schewe & O’Donohue1993). There has been even less research regarding peer education programs, and almost nothing studying the efficacy of peer theatre programs, especially around relationship violence and stalking. A cursory review of the literature reveals that peer theatre programs are effective in reducing high-risk behaviors associated with alcohol use and increasing protective behaviors (Cimini, Page, and Trujillo, 2002). However, no studies were found measuring the effectiveness of improvisational peer theatre presentations on increasing interpersonal violence awareness which includes detecting early warning signs, sensitivity to interpersonal power dynamics, “debunking” rape mythology, increasing sensitivity to survivors of interpersonal violence, and emphasizing the importance of intervention from bystanders. For the purposes of this study interpersonal violence focuses on sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.


The project will study the attitudes and behaviors of three specific groups of students: 1) the student players enrolled in Theatre for Social Change and Peer Theatre Performance classes; 2) a group of students who participates in a presentation facilitated by PAUSE; and 3) a comparison group of students that has had no exposure to any PAUSE presentation. The student players (PAUSE) will complete the Revised Attitudes toward Rape Scale (Downes & Williams, 1991), the Domestic Violence Attitudes Scale (Peters, 2003), the Short Form Sex Role Ideology Scale (Cota & Xinaris, 1993), and a brief demographic survey at the beginning of the fall, 2003 semester and again in the spring of 2004 after all classroom instruction has been completed and several theatre performances have been presented. These students will also participate in pre and post-study focus groups to obtain more detailed information regarding their attitudes and behaviors.